Whenever you meet with your doctor, you need to provide a list of all of the medications you are currently taking, including both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Certain drugs can have dangerous interactions with other medications. Two commonly prescribed drugs, Xanax and Ambien, are prescription drugs that are both central nervous system (CNS) depressants. People might be prescribed Xanax for the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. They might also be prescribed Ambien for help with sleep. Here is what you should know about these drugs before you take them together.

Can You Take Xanax and Ambien Together?

If you are prescribed Xanax and Ambien, you should generally not take them together. When these drugs are combined, they can interact with each other and cause more side effects of one or both drugs.

As CNS depressants, both Xanax and Ambien work to increase the effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This substance is a neurotransmitter that is naturally produced in the body. It works by slowing certain brain functions by blocking signals from certain brain regions. GABA is believed to relieve stress and anxiety while also improving sleep. Since both Xanax and Ambien encourage the brain to release more of this substance, combining them can compound the following side effects:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Motor coordination impairment
  • Depressed respiration

Since a combination of these medications can depress the respiratory system, taking these drugs together could cause a cessation of breathing, coma, and death.

If you are prescribed both of these medications, you should not engage in any activity that involves decision-making or alertness, including driving or operating machinery. Both of these drugs also have the potential to cause drug dependence and abuse and are Schedule IV controlled substances. Combining them can increase the risk of addiction as compared to taking either drug by itself. If you suddenly stop taking these drugs, you might also experience withdrawal symptoms because of the potential of becoming physically dependent.

Similarities and Differences of Xanax vs. Ambien

The generic for Ambien is zolpidem, which is a drug classed as a sedative-hypnotic medication to facilitate sleep. This medication facilitates sleep by targeting certain neural receptors in your brain. When you take Ambien, the drug slows the activity of your brain so that you can fall asleep faster. It is also available in an extended-release version, Ambien CR, which includes two layers of medication with one that helps you fall asleep while the second layer helps you remain asleep.

If you are prescribed Ambien, you should take it immediately before you go to bed. You should only take this medication when you will have enough time to get at least seven to eight hours of rest. You should take Ambien on an empty stomach because food can reduce your body’s ability to absorb it. Women generally start with a dose of 5 mg once per day at bedtime. Men start at a dose ranging from 5 mg to 10 mg once per day at bedtime. Patients with mild to moderate liver issues and those who are elderly start with doses of 5 mg regardless of gender. Ambien is contraindicated for those with serious liver conditions.

Ambien is approved to treat insomnia in people who have trouble falling asleep. People who have trouble both falling and remaining asleep might be prescribed Ambien CR.

The generic for Xanax is alprazolam, which is classed as a benzodiazepine drug. It also works within the CNS by facilitating the receptivity of neural receptors to GABA. This helps to produce a feeling of calm and relaxation. After you take a dose of this drug, you will begin experiencing its effects within about an hour, and they will last for around five hours. There is also an extended-release version of Xanax for which the effects will last for up to 11 hours.

Ambien is prescribed to people who suffer from anxiety disorders and might also be prescribed for short-term relief of anxiety symptoms associated with depression. It can also be prescribed for people who suffer from panic disorder.

IndicationsInsomniaAnxiety/Panic DO
FormsImmediate release/extended releaseImmediate release/extended release/oral concentrate

Ambien and Xanax are used for different purposes and are different drugs, so there aren’t any studies comparing these two medications. If you struggle to fall asleep, your doctor might prescribe Ambien to you. If you struggle with anxiety disorder, your doctor might prescribe Xanax to you. Your doctor has the education and experience to choose the right medication for you based on your underlying medical conditions, symptoms, medical history, and any other medications you might take that could have potentially dangerous interactions. Make sure you tell your doctor about all of the drugs, medications, and supplements you take so that you can avoid being prescribed something that could cause dangerous side effects.


Possible Side Effects of Xanax and Ambien

The side effects of Xanax and Ambien can be compounded if they are taken together.

Xanax Side Effects

Xanax can be taken with or without food. However, if you are prescribed the extended-release form, you should take your medication with water. Some of the known side effects of Xanax include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Reduced libido
  • Appetite increase
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Blurry vision

The side effects of Xanax can increase when higher doses are taken. They can also be more severe if you take Xanax with Ambien.

Ambien Side Effects

If you are prescribed Ambien or Ambien CR, you should take your medication when your stomach is empty right before you go to bed. The medication takes about 30 minutes to take effect, but it can be delayed if you take it with food.

The following side effects have been associated with Ambien:

  • Excessive drowsiness when not desired
  • Grogginess
  • Headache
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Skin reactions
  • Thought disturbances
  • Dementia

The side effects of Ambien can be more severe if Ambien is taken at higher doses or in combination with Xanax or another CNS depressant.

Potential Interactions of Xanax and Ambien

Ambien should not be taken with other CNS depressants, including alcohol, opioids, anti-depressants, or benzodiazepines. These drug classes can have additive effects when combined. Other drugs that can interact with Ambien include rifampin, which can lower the level of Ambien, and ketoconazole, which can increase the level of Ambien.

Xanax should also not be taken with other CNS depressants. If it is taken with opioids, there will be an increased risk of respiratory depression, sedation, overdose, and death. Xanax should also not be taken with alcohol, sedative-hypnotics, anti-psychotics, anti-convulsants, or anti-depressants.

Other interactions are possible, which is why you should bring a complete list of all medications and over-the-counter substances you are taking with you to your doctor’s appointments.

Both Ambien and Xanax offer some benefits to people suffering from insomnia or anxiety disorders. However, they should not be taken together. If you are prescribed one of these medications, you should make sure to follow your dosing schedule and never take more of the medication than you are prescribed. Make sure to inform your doctor about all of your prescribed and non-prescribed medications to prevent potentially dangerous drug interactions. In general, you should avoid taking Ambien and Xanax together. If you are already prescribed one of these drugs, make sure to tell your doctor if they discuss prescribing the other one.

Drug and alcohol detox programs are not directly offered by Long Island Interventions. If you or a loved one require any services that we do not offer, we would be glad to refer you to one of our trusted affiliate providers. To learn more, contact Long Island Interventions today.


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Published on: 2022-11-17
Updated on: 2024-03-08