How Long Does Withdrawal From Ambien Last?

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Ambien (zolpidem) is a prescription medication used to treat insomnia. It belongs to a group of drugs called sedative-hypnotics that work by depressing the central nervous system and slowing down brain activity. While Ambien is generally considered safer than certain other sedatives, it can still be abused. Long-term use may lead to tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal.

Overview

Dependence and withdrawal are rare in people taking Ambien exactly as directed, but it can happen.

According to the drug manufacturer, withdrawal symptoms appear in about one percent of people taking a therapeutic dose. However, their clinical trials did not incorporate the experiences of people misusing or abusing Ambien.

Case reports suggest that withdrawal symptoms are most common among people who quit abruptly after long-term misuse or abuse. 

If you have been using Ambien in any way other than your doctor intended, then you have misused or abused it. Examples include taking larger doses than you are supposed to or intentionally staying awake to take advantage of the drug’s intoxicating effects.

The effects of Ambien are akin to alcohol intoxication, causing impaired judgment, slurred speech, and behavioral changes.

Ambien abuse is most common among teenagers and young adults. Occasional recreational use in social situations sometimes develops into a regular habit. Ambien misuse and dependence is also more common among people with other substance abuse problems. It can be used to substitute for other substances or to counterbalance the effects of stimulants. People in drug treatment programs may start using it to treat withdrawal symptoms or to get high on something that doesn’t show up on most drug tests.

If you’ve been taking large doses of Ambien for more than a few weeks, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can range from a general unwell feeling to tremors, panic attacks, and vomiting.

Signs & Symptoms

Although it was previously believed to be rare, new research suggests that withdrawal symptoms may be common among those who abuse the drug. Unfortunately, there is very little data available about Ambien withdrawal, and further research is desperately needed.

From reports of specific cases, we do know that Ambien withdrawal can range from mild to severe. Mild symptoms can include insomnia and restlessness. These symptoms may be bothersome and can interfere slightly with your day-to-day activities.

Severe withdrawal symptoms, which would prevent you from engaging in normal activities, include flu-like symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, sweating, and muscle cramps. There are reports of people experiencing severe anxiety and nervousness. It is possible that you would have tremors, become lightheaded, have a panic attack, or even potentially have a seizure.

Symptoms of withdrawal would begin within several hours to a couple of days after your last dose and should resolve within a matter of days.

Possible Ambien Withdrawal Symptoms

Physical

  • Restlessness

  • Hand tremors

  • Headache

  • Sweating

  • Racing pulse

  • Hyperventilation

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Aches and pains

Psychological

  • Anxiety

  • Panic attacks

  • Insomnia

These symptoms may be compounded by the effects of other substances or substance withdrawal symptoms.

Coping & Relief

If you take a regular therapeutic dose of Ambien, then it is unlikely that you will experience any withdrawal symptoms. You may, however, have trouble sleeping without it.

To train your body to fall asleep normally, you may choose to taper your dose over the course of one to two weeks. You can use a pill cutter, which you can pick up at any pharmacy, to chop your pill into halves and quarters.

If you are still having trouble sleeping, consider taking melatonin as an alternative. Melatonin is a natural chemical produced in the brain that helps regulate your sleep cycles. As you get older, your brain doesn’t produce as much melatonin as it used to. A melatonin supplement at bedtime can help.

There are also other herbal remedies that can help you fall asleep, such as valerian root and chamomile tea. 

Warnings

Talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medication. If you are worried about withdrawal, your doctor can help you safely taper down your dose.

If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor right away. Ambien can be potentially harmful to a developing fetus.

If you regularly abuse Ambien or take a higher than normal dose, you may be at increased risk of severe withdrawal symptoms. You should speak with your doctor and refrain from self-medicating with other drugs or alcohol.

Long-Term Treatment

Recovery from an Ambien use disorder can be difficult. If you are having trouble quitting or are trying to quit more than one substance, then it’s important to ask for help. That help may be medical, psychological, or social.

If you have an alcohol or drug abuse problem, then you may want to consider spending some time in an inpatient treatment facility. Inpatient programs work well for people who have tried and failed to get sober at home.

Outpatient treatment comes in many forms. You may choose to start with your regular doctor or a psychiatrist who can help you with medically-assisted detox. You may also choose to see a therapist for therapy. Psychotherapy will help you to identify triggers that motivate your substance abuse and teach you the skills to handle those situations.

Other long-term treatment options include group therapy sessions and 12-Step meetings. Group therapy sessions are offered at hospitals and addiction treatment centers. 12-Step meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) take place every day in cities and towns throughout the country.

Resources

If you are ready to quit taking Ambien, the best place to start is with your prescribing doctor. Your doctor can advise you about the best way to quit and help you develop a plan to deal with any potential withdrawal symptoms.

If you or someone you love is struggling with other substance abuse issues, you may want to seek out a qualified mental health provider or addiction specialist. This searchable directory from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) can help you find a provider in your area. You can also call SAMHSA’s national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

To find a 12-Step meeting in your area, use these searchable directories for Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

A Word From Verywell

It’s clear that Ambien use disorder is a potentially serious problem. If you are getting into trouble with Ambia, don't hesitate to ask for help.

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Article Sources
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