How Long Does Ambien Stay in Your System?

A distressed and tired woman stumbling after taking ambien

Ambien, the brand name for zolpidem, is a prescription sleep aid used to treat insomnia. It comes in immediate-release, extended-release and sublingual (under the tongue) formulations.

Ambien is typically present in the body for less than 24 hours. However, it may be detectable for up to 72 hours in some drug tests. Ambien is not routinely tested for in blood, urine, saliva or hair tests. Though it is not usually tested for, Ambien is a Schedule IV medication according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). This classification means that it has a known medical use but also the potential for addiction and misuse.

Duration of Effects of Ambien

The immediate-release and extended-release formulations of Ambien begin working about 30–60 minutes after taking a dose. The drug continues to work for 6–8 hours. 

The sublingual formulation is designed to be taken if someone wakes up in the middle of the night. This formulation lasts for about 5 hours.

Ambien Half-Life

The half-life describes the amount of time it takes the body to metabolize half of a drug. Ambien’s half-life ranges from 1.5–4.5 hours and averages 2.5 hours for most people. All formulations of Ambien have a similar half-life.

For example, if someone takes 10 mg of Ambien at 8:00 p.m., the amount left in their blood over time is:

  • 10:30 p.m. — 5 mg
  • 1:00 a.m. — 2.5 mg
  • 3:30 a.m. — 1.25 mg
  • 6:00 a.m. — 0.75 mg
  • 8:30 a.m. — 0.38 mg

Ambien has been mostly metabolized from the body in about five half-lives, or 12.5 hours. However, the half-life can be much longer for certain people. Some people take over 24 hours to metabolize the drug completely, which contributes to stories about Ambien causing “hangovers” the next morning.

How Long Will Ambien Show in Drug Test?

Drug tests do not routinely look for Ambien, despite its potential for misuse. In some cases, however, certain tests may be able to detect the drug or its metabolites.

Urine

Ambien is not detectable in standard urine drug tests, but its metabolites may be able to be detected. A study from 2007 tested how long Ambien is detectable in urine, and a metabolite was detectable 72 hours after last use. However, there have been no commercially available tests developed since then.

Blood

Ambien is detectable in the blood for 8–24 hours and is present in the blood for about five half-lives. The length of each half-life varies based on personal characteristics and factors. Despite being present in the blood, Ambien is still not detectable on standard drug tests.

Hair

In theory, Ambien is detectable in hair for 90 days. Hair tests are different than other drug tests because drugs become “locked” into the hair. Hair grows at a steady rate of 0.5 cm every month, and most tests will read the last 90 days by taking 1.5 cm of hair. However, Ambien is not part of the standard panel tested in hair.

Factors Affecting How Long Ambien Stays in Your System

Ambien has many factors that affect how long it remains in the system:

  • Age: Older adults can expect Ambien to stay in the blood for 30% longer. Metabolism of Ambien slows down with age.
  • Amount used: Higher doses of Ambien will stay in the body for longer.
  • Frequency of use: Ambien is typically taken once daily, so frequency will not play a large role in how long it stays in the body. Chronic use of Ambien may make it detectable for a few hours longer than short-term use.
  • Overall health: People with kidney or liver problems can expect to have Ambien in their system for longer because both organs are used to metabolize the drug.
  • Sex: The maximum dose for females is 5 mg, while the maximum dose for males is 10 mg. Females metabolize Ambien about 45% more slowly.

How Ambien Is Broken Down in the Body

Ambien is broken down into inactive metabolites by the liver and then excreted through the kidneys into the urine. The only way to remove Ambien from the system is time. No trick or technique can remove it from the body more quickly than normal.

Key Points: How Long Does Ambien Stay in Your System?

Some important pieces of information about Ambien drug tests include:

  • Ambien is not routinely tested for in the blood, urine, saliva or hair
  • Ambien has the potential for addiction and misuse
  • The factors that most affect metabolism are age, dose amount and sex
  • Ambien is removed from the body by the liver and kidneys

Ambien is not detectable in most drug tests, but it still can be misused. If you or someone you know is addicted to Ambien, The Recovery Village Ridgefield is here to help. Contact us today to speak with an addiction professional and learn more about treatment options.

DailyMed. “Ambien Package Insert.” 2019. Accessed August 5, 2019.

Gunja, Naren. “The Clinical and Forensic Toxicology of Z-Drugs.” Journal of Medical Toxicology, 2013. Accessed August 5, 2019.

Lewis, John H.; Vine, John H. “A Simple and Rapid Method for the Identification of Zolpidem Carboxylic Acid in Urine.” Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 2007. Accessed August 5, 2019.