Ambien and Trazodone are prescription medications commonly used to treat insomnia, but they achieve sedation through different mechanisms. As a result, they may have different side effects and interactions with other substances. Let’s explore what these medications do, how they work, and compare their side effects and interactions with other substances.

What is Ambien?

Zolpidem, a sedative-hypnotic, is better known by its brand name Ambien. It is used to manage insomnia symptoms. It’s effective for those who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Different forms address different issues.

Ambien increases GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) availability in the brain and spinal cord. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces brain activity, leading to a sedative effect.

Ambien acts quickly and doesn’t linger in the body for long, so it also comes in a delayed-release tablet for people who tend to wake up during the night and cannot fall back asleep.

What is Trazodone?

Trazodone HCL, or simply Trazodone, was originally intended to treat depression. As a serotonin antagonist reuptake inhibitor (SARI), it allows serotonin to stay in the central nervous system (CNS) longer. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for many functions in the human body, including mood and sleep regulation.

Trazodone is not as effective as other antidepressants, so it is most commonly used to treat insomnia. Its side effects allow it to function as a sedative, useful for those who struggle with falling or staying asleep.

Ambien vs. Trazodone: How Do They Compare?

Ambien and Trazodone both have sedative effects on the CNS but achieve them through different mechanisms. 

Trazodone’s sedative effects are a side effect of higher serotonin availability, while Ambien acts as a traditional sleep aid by increasing GABA availability in the CNS, which leads to reduced activity and, eventually, sedation.

Let’s explore their similarities and differences by exploring their side effects, misuse symptoms, and interactions with other substances.

Side Effects

Ambien and Trazodone have very similar side effects, often including:

  • Drowsiness, dizziness, and confusion.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Headaches.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Digestive problems, diarrhea, or constipation.
  • Muscle pain or weakness.
  • Fatigue or tiredness.
  • Nervousness or anxiety.
  • Difficulty or inability to focus.

Less common side effects of Trazodone include insomnia or vivid dreams, nightmares, reduced appetite and associated weight loss, tremors or shaking, profuse sweating, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, fainting, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), nasal congestion, skin rashes, and sexual dysfunctions (decreased libido, difficulty achieving orgasms, etc.).

Less common side effects of Ambien include memory problems, agitation, confusion (lack of awareness about location and time), chest pain, discouragement, an unusual sense of well-being, racing heartbeat, intense sadness or emptiness, fever, irritability, and sleep disorders.

Symptoms of Abuse

Signs of Ambien or Trazodone abuse often include behaviors like:

  • Getting the medication without a prescription, stealing, or illegally.
  • Using it more often or in higher quantities than prescribed.
  • Using it in manners other than specified, like grinding and snorting pills.
  • Being secretive about activities or whereabouts.
  • Combining the medication with other substances (alcohol, painkillers, etc.).
  • Experiencing an intense desire to use or acquire the drug.
  • Despite negative consequences, like poor school or job performance and relationship issues, it continued its use.
  • Uncharacteristically asking for money.
  • Ignoring or being unable to fulfill responsibilities due to drug use.
  • Suffering health issues as a result of drug use.
  • Using the drug to experience a drug high rather than for medical purposes.
  • Developing tolerance for Ambien/Trazodone doses that use to cause sedation.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using the medicine.

Teens, in particular, have a higher chance of abusing anti-anxiety and sleep medications, with Ambien being one of the most commonly used sedative prescription medications among college-aged people. The most common illicit way for them to acquire Ambien is through friends and family members that divert their prescription Ambien.

It’s important to inform yourself about Ambien and Trazodone abuse, especially if a teen family member or friend uses it.

Interactions With Other Substances

Combining sedatives with other substances like medications and recreational drugs can lead to unpredictable and potentially risky interactions. Ambien can have potentially dangerous interactions with the following substances:

  • Alcohol. Alcohol and Ambien are CNS depressants. Simultaneously taking them reinforces each substance’s effects, increasing the risk of suffering slowed breathing, hallucinations, delusions, shaking, nausea, and other side effects. 
  • Opioids. Opioids are also CNS depressants, and taking them together increases the risk of suffering side effects from both types of drugs. Common effects include drowsiness, dizziness, and slowed breathing.
  • Benzodiazepines like Valium. Increases the risk of suffering side effects from both.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft. Increases the risk of Ambien side effects.

Other substances that mutually increase side effects risks when taken with Ambien include other sedative-hypnotic drugs, tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), CYP3A4 inducers and inhibitors, chlorpromazine, and imipramine.

Trazodone can have potentially dangerous interactions with the following substances:

  • Medications that raise serotonin levels like Zoloft, TCAs, Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and SSRIs. Taking them together may cause serotonin syndrome, leading to side effects like tremors, sweating, fast heartbeat, agitation, and high fever.
  • Medications that raise bleeding risks like Warfarin, Xarelto, Eliquis, Pradaxa, and Clopidogrel. Combined with Trazodone, they further increase your risk of bleeding. Ask your healthcare provider for alternatives if you must take blood thinners.
  • Medications that alter heart rhythms like Amiodarone, Sotalol, Ziprasidone, and Chlorpromazine. Taking them with Trazodone increases the risk of arrhythmia.
  • Substances with sedative effects like benzodiazepines, other sleep medications, barbiturates, opioids, diphenhydramine, and alcohol.
  • Digoxin. Phenytoin is a medication for controlling heartbeat that, combined with Trazodone, may lead to digoxin toxicity. Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and life-threatening heart problems.
  • Phenytoin. Phenytoin is an anti-seizure medication that, combined with Trazodone, may cause confusion, dizziness, and life-threatening comatose states.

Furthermore, combining Trazodone with other sleep aids leads to risky side effects. Combining Trazodone and Ambien may increase their sedative effects, causing excessive sedation, drowsiness, and impaired cognitive functions. These side effects reduce mental alertness and make it risky to perform daily tasks like driving.

How to Get Help For Ambien Or Trazodone Addiction?

It’s possible to develop a dependency on Trazodone or Ambien, as patients gain a tolerance over time and must take higher doses for the drugs to be effective. This is particularly true for Ambien, which is more addictive than Trazodone and causes more severe withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment starts with an assessment from a medical professional. You’ll likely have to gradually decrease doses to minimize withdrawal symptoms and may need medical supervision.

After detoxification, you should join a rehabilitation program. Social support is crucial in addiction recovery and will help you manage the underlying issues that caused it in the first place. Support from loved ones is equally important as professional care, as recovery is physically and mentally taxing.

If you or a loved one experience Trazodone or Ambien addiction, seek help and explore professional treatment options.


Are Trazodone And Ambien the same?

Trazodone and Ambien are often used by people who have trouble falling or staying asleep. They have similar results but are different medications that affect the body differently. 

Trazodone induces drowsiness as a side effect and tends to be slightly less effective in treating insomnia for some people, but it can help with depression-induced sleep disorders. Meanwhile, Ambien is a sedative. It induces sleep much faster, even at low doses.

Can I use Trazodone or Ambien with alcohol?

Mixing either medication with alcohol will worsen each substances’s side effects. As depressants, they reinforce each other’s sedative effects, leading to more intense drowsiness, dizziness, and slowed breathing. You shouldn’t mix alcohol with Trazodone or Ambien, much less all three.

Is Trazodone Or Ambien better?

While both drugs treat insomnia, sleep disorders are multifactored and have different causes. A person with chronic insomnia would not receive the same treatment as someone who can’t sleep due to a major depressive episode. The effectiveness of either drug depends on the root cause of insomnia, any co-occurring conditions, and other medications the patient may be taking. You should always consult with your medical provider and follow prescription instructions provided.