Ambien is a fairly powerful sedative that should not be snorted. Even when used as intended, the drug can have several adverse side effects that a doctor must balance against a patient’s needs. When misused, the risk of serious side effects is greatly increased, with some effects being potentially life-threatening.
How Dangerous Is Snorting Ambien?
Ambien, and its generic equivalent zolpidem, should never be snorted. It is a sedative-hypnotic, meaning it slows down activity in the brain, and its use carries serious inherent risks even when used exactly as prescribed. While the medication has legitimate, accepted uses, it is prescribed with care and no variant is intended to be snorted.
Risks of Ambien Use
People using Ambien have been known to engage or otherwise become involved in activities while not fully awake. There are many reports of people getting out of bed and engaging in the following activities:[1,3]
- Preparing and eating food
- Having sex
- Making phone calls
- Attempting to drive
Engaging in any of these complex sleep behaviors is very dangerous, potentially resulting in accident or injury.
Ambien Abuse & Overdose
Misusing Ambien greatly increases a person’s risk of adverse side effects and overdose. Signs of an overdose, which can be fatal if untreated, include the following:
- Slowed or stopped breathing
- Slowed or stopped heartbeat
Dependence & Withdrawal
Ambien is generally reported as having low abuse and addiction potential, but cases of sleeping pill abuse and dependence do still occur. Repeated use, especially repeated Ambien abuse, can increase a person’s tolerance for the drug and lead to dependence.
Withdrawal symptoms will then occur when one stops taking the drug. Ambien withdrawal symptoms include the following:[1,6]
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle tics
What Are the Dangers Specific to Snorting Ambien?
The following are some notable dangers of snorting Ambien:[4-6]
Irritation & Damage to the Nose
The human nose is sensitive and can be damaged by snorting any substance. The likelihood of damage increases with coarser and contaminated substances. Since Ambien that is purchased on the street is often cut with other substances, this can cause further damage to the nasal cavity.
A common issue when snorting drugs is bleeding from the small vessels in the nose. With repeated snorting, a person can potentially do serious damage to their nose, with known potential effects including the following:
- Excessive, bad nosebleeds
- Excessive mucus production
- Easier transmission of certain viruses due to nasal damage
- Permanent damage to the septum
Irrational, Dangerous Behavior
Even when used as intended, people taking Ambien sometimes engage in behaviors they otherwise would not have.
Some have attempted to drive in a severely altered mental state or even had sex with other people they would not have if thinking more clearly. There have even been some cases linking the use of this drug to users committing homicide.
Some people using the drug have been known to hallucinate or experience amnesia, which further blurs the lines of reality. This also makes rational decision-making very difficult.
Snorting the drug increases the chances of this negative side effect, largely because the effects of the drug hit the brain more intensely when used in this way. People who are snorting Ambien are also more likely to be using higher doses.
Heightened Dependence Risk
Ambien is normally well-tolerated in adults and has a low risk of abuse and dependence. However, misuse of the drug increases the likelihood of dependence developing, with known cases of physical dependence occurring.
Again, Ambien withdrawal can cause muscle pain, heavy sweating, mood changes, and more. While this withdrawal syndrome won’t generally be life-threatening, it will make quitting Ambien more difficult. In extreme cases, withdrawal from Ambien has occasionally caused seizures.
Heightened Overdose Risk
In general, misusing sedative-hypnotics like Ambien should be considered very dangerous due to the risk of overdose. When you take more Ambien than prescribed or take the drug in a way that may intensify its effects (such as snorting it), it can begin to dangerously slow activity in the brain.
The body can become physically unable to draw in enough air to support its needs, which can potentially cause permanent brain damage or death. This risk is even greater if Ambien is taken with alcohol or other drugs that can depress breathing.
Heightened Risk of Suicide
Self-harm and suicide have been shown to be more likely in people taking Ambien, even if they otherwise had not been previously diagnosed with a comorbid psychiatric illness.[6-9] This is especially dangerous because the drug itself can do serious harm if intentionally taken in extreme doses.
This risk is present in people taking Ambien as prescribed, but it is heightened if the drug is abused. If you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm when taking Ambien, talk to a doctor immediately. If the risk is imminent, call 911 for emergency services.
Help for Ambien Abuse
If you are snorting Ambien, it’s a clear sign of abuse. Once abuse and addiction are present, it’s incredibly difficult to stop without professional help. Treatment for Ambien addiction can change your life, enabling you to stop all substance abuse and build a better future in recovery.
- Zolpidem National Library of Medicine. Published November 15, 2019. Accessed October 1, 2023.
- Highlights of prescribing information: Ambien U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Published February 2008. Accessed October 1, 2023.
- Zolpidem for insomnia: A double-edged sword. A systematic literature review on zolpidem-induced complex sleep behaviors Mittal N, Mittal R, Gupta MC., Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine. 2021;43(5):373-381
- Zolpidem dependence, abuse and withdrawal: A case report Heydari M, Isfeedvajani MS., Journal of Research in Medical Sciences : The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences. 2013;18(11):1006-1007.
- Swallowing & Snorting Ontario Harm Reduction Network. Accessed October 1, 2023.
- Zolpidem: Efficacy and side effects for insomnia Edinoff AN, Wu N, Ghaffar YT, et al. Health Psychology Research. 2021;9(1)
- Zolpidem use and risk of suicide: A systematic review and meta-analysis Khan H, Garg A, Yasmeen, et al., Psychiatry Research. 2022;316:114777.
- Zolpidem-induced suicide attempt: a case report Mortaz Hejri S, Faizi M, Babaeian M., DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2013;21(1):77.
- Impetuous suicidality with zolpidem use: a case report and minireview Brady M, Cunningham MG., Sleep Medicine. 2021;81:154-157.