Although Ambien overdose is often intentional, you can accidentally overdose on it if you are not using it as directed. If you take Ambien more frequently or at higher doses than prescribed, you may develop a tolerance to it. Eventually it will take a higher dose for you to get the same effects that you did at the beginning.
“If you take Ambien more frequently or at higher doses than prescribed, you may develop a tolerance to it.”
In an attempt to re-create these effects, you may take too much Ambien. If this happens, Ambien overdose symptoms will rapidly present themselves. If you believe you may have overdosed, get medical treatment right away. An overdose of this drug can be fatal.
Signs and Symptoms of Abuse
Ambien overdose symptoms and signs are pretty straightforward, and they are a result of Ambien’s depressant effect on the central nervous system. Symptoms and signs of an overdose on Ambien include:
- Altered mental status
- Irregular breathing
- Decreased response to stimuli
You may notice Ambien overdose symptoms in yourself. For example, it may be very difficult for you to stay awake. You may feel confused, detached or just off. Signs of an overdose on Ambien, on the other hand, may be discovered by your doctor or others around you. Hypoxemia and hypercapnia, for example, are discovered during laboratory testing.
Ambien Overdose Treatment
Ambien overdose treatment can be broken into two main parts: primary treatment and supportive care. Primary addiction treatment consists of the administration of flumazenil. Flumazenil helps reverse the effects of Ambien on your central nervous system. It is given via intravenous injection at a dose of 0.2 mg to 1 mg. It peaks at around 10 minutes, and rapid improvement is usually seen at this point.
Supportive treatment consists of managing symptoms as they develop. In Ambien overdose situations, this usually includes:
- Mechanical ventilation
- IV fluids
- Gastric lavage
Supportive treatment helps protect your body as it undergoes recovery from the overdose. Intubation and mechanical ventilation make sure that your body gets the oxygen it needs to keep functioning properly. IV fluids can protect important organs, especially the kidneys, from shutting down. Gastric lavage, if given early after Ambien overdose symptoms present themselves, can remove any remaining Ambien from your stomach before it gets absorbed.
After you get treatment, it’s important to make sure that an overdose doesn’t happen again. If you’ve overdosed on Ambien or are worried about doing so in the future due to dependence, reach out for help.
- Altered mental status, especially confusion, is a symptom that is more prevalent in those over 70 years of age
- Ambien is only effective for four to five weeks. After this, its efficacy is decreased, which increases the risk of overdose in those addicted to the drug.
Complications and Prognosis
A severe Ambien overdose can lead to a myriad of serious complications. The most dangerous of these include:
- Pulmonary edema
- Respiratory failure
Pulmonary edema occurs when fluid begins to build up in the lungs. This will make it very hard for you to breathe. If you develop pulmonary edema, you may cough up white froth. You may also hear wheezing sounds when you breathe. Usually, pulmonary edema is treated with oxygen and diuretics.
Respiratory failure is defined as the condition in which the respiratory system stops working correctly. This prevents your body from maintaining adequate oxygen or carbon dioxide levels. If respiratory failure goes untreated for too long, it can affect your body’s organ systems. In severe cases, multi-system organ failure can occur. Respiratory failure is treated supportively via cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Coma refers to a state of deep unconsciousness and is one of the most serious Ambien overdose symptoms. When you are in a coma, you will not respond to people’s attempts to rouse you. Your pupils may not respond to light and you may breathe irregularly. A coma is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment or rehab. You will probably need to be intubated. A tube is put down your throat to protect your airway and help you breathe properly. If a coma goes untreated for too long, death or permanent disability may occur.
“…seizures can occur when an Ambien overdose is complicated by other drugs or alcohol.”
While not common in a pure Ambien overdose, seizures can occur when an Ambien overdose is complicated by other drugs or alcohol. This is important to know because 50 percent of people who overdose on Ambien have ingested another type of substance, according to a case analysis published in the Journal of Toxicology – Clinical Toxicology. During the seizure, you may lose consciousness and your body may shake uncontrollably. Seizures will usually stop by themselves once Ambien overdose treatment has been implemented.