Ambien Withdrawal and Detox
Common symptoms of withdrawal from Ambien include nausea, insomnia and irritability. Quitting “cold turkey” can cause dangerous side effects like seizures. The detox process involves gradually stepping down doses before completely coming off Ambien.
What is Ambien (Zolpidem) Withdrawal?
Medical professionals consider “z-drugs” like Ambien less habit-forming than other sedatives such as benzodiazepines. Some people may take this as a sign that Ambien isn’t addictive. This leads to unexpected withdrawal symptoms for some people addicted to Ambien.
Regular Ambien users can build a tolerance to the drug in as little as two weeks.
Tolerance, or needing larger doses to get the effects of the drug, happens when the brain attempts to neutralize Ambien’s sedative effects. The addicted brain then becomes overactive without the drug, which results in withdrawal symptoms. Any attempts to quit Ambien cold turkey can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms, which can even be fatal. A medically-assisted detox can help prevent the dangerous complications of withdrawal and make the user more comfortable.
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Withdrawing from Ambien is difficult partly because of the changes that are taking place in the brain; withdrawal symptoms are a result of the brain trying to reestablish normal activity. Withdrawal from Ambien has the opposite effect of taking the drug, and abruptly stopping doses of Ambien leads to more severe symptoms.
Seizures have been observed after the discontinuation of [Ambien] in individuals using extremely high doses of this agent, as have other signs of withdrawal including tremor, agitation and anxiety.
Other Ambien withdrawal symptoms include:
- Agitation and irritability
- High blood pressure
- Stomach cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Uncontrollable crying
- Panic attacks
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Ambien’s main purpose is to treat insomnia. When a person becomes dependent on Ambien and stops taking it, they may be unable to sleep. This is known as “rebound insomnia,” a withdrawal symptom in which the inability to sleep returns, often worse than before.
Some former Ambien addicts have said their rebound insomnia lasted several weeks after they decided to quit. But ultimately, most addicted people end up sleeping better after the withdrawal period is over.
The duration of withdrawal from Ambien varies from user to user. Symptoms may last as little as a few days or as much as several weeks.
Those who took larger doses over a longer period of time generally have the most intense symptoms. Heavy Ambien users are also likely to struggle with withdrawal symptoms longer than moderate users.
A typical dose of Ambien is 10 mg daily. But many people addicted to Ambien take far larger doses, often hundreds of milligrams per day. One case study described a woman who struggled with severe withdrawal from taking 160 mg of Ambien per day.
People taking Ambien CR (controlled release) should be aware that their withdrawal symptoms may last longer. The goal of Ambien CR is to keep users asleep, whereas regular Ambien is meant to help users fall asleep. Ambien CR keeps users asleep by remaining in the body for a longer period of time, meaning it takes longer to leave the body.
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Ambien Withdrawal Timeline
|First 4-8 hrs.||Ambien has a shorter half-life than most sedatives. Half-life is how long it takes for the drug to leave the body. Severely addicted people may notice the first signs of withdrawal in as little as four hours after their last dose.|
|Days 1-2||Usually about 48 hours after the last dose of Ambien, withdrawal symptoms fully manifest. Users are likely to experience confusion, memory loss and mood swings. It is also difficult to sleep during this time.|
|Days 3-5||The symptoms of Ambien withdrawal can peak after five days of discontinued use. Leading up to this time, users might feel shaky and nauseated. Some people also have panic attacks. Rebound insomnia may still be a struggle.|
|Weeks 1-2||After withdrawal symptoms peak, former Ambien users begin to feel normal again. Symptoms slowly fade during the second week and former addicts should start being able to sleep normally without Ambien.|
Detoxing from Ambien nearly always involves a tapering down approach. By gradually reducing a user’s doses over time, the recovering user’s body can slowly readjust to life without Ambien. A tapered detox keeps the body from becoming overactive, which can lead to panic attacks, convulsions and dangerously high blood pressure.
Some people are able to taper off Ambien in as little as two weeks while it takes months for others. In either case, the goal of Ambien detox is to minimize discomfort and prevent harmful withdrawal symptoms.
Some physicians switch Ambien users to long-acting benzodiazepines like Valium. Because the withdrawal symptoms of Ambien are nearly identical to benzo withdrawal, Valium can ease the symptoms caused by quitting Ambien. In the case of a person severely addicted to Ambien, physicians reported that they “used [a Valium] tapering regimen to treat the zolpidem withdrawal symptoms successfully without recurrence of seizure.”
It’s important to note that Valium is also a powerfully addictive substance and may only be suggested as a replacement to people with a very severe addiction.
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Treatment for Ambien Addiction
Many inpatient and outpatient rehabs offer a medically-managed detox as part of their programs. However, treating an addiction to Ambien is often more complex than making it through the withdrawal period. Combining the tapering-off process with therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy improves the chances of a successful recovery.
Both medically-assisted detox and therapy are essential in helping former users permanently quit Ambien. If you or someone you love is struggling with an Ambien addiction and fear you might relapse, contact a dedicated treatment specialist to learn about your options today.
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