Tapering off Ambien

Ambien, also known by its chemical name zolpidem, is a highly powerful sedative medication. Zolpidem is one of several z-drugs — given the name for their use to promote healthy sleep cycles. The largest issue Ambien seeks to correct is insomnia, whether the individual patient needs to get to sleep or stay that way. Tens of millions of citizens suffer from disturbed sleep in the United States alone. The use and misuse of pills is widespread; often taken every single night of the week in some cases.

Sleeping pills are often considered to be benzodiazepines by another name. Though technically speaking, these specific drugs are ‘nonbenzodiazepines’ because of intrinsic differences in their chemical makeup. Even still, Ambien produces the same effects and acts upon similar mechanisms in the central nervous system as benzos do.

Though not as inherently dangerous or habit-forming, z-drugs can have similarly hazardous withdrawals as benzodiazepines, but they have another peril all their own. Recreational and prescription users alike contend that they have undertaken unsafe behavior while using sleeping aides. Sleepwalking, sleep-driving, self-harm, and worse have all been reported while consuming said substances. These episodes are rare, but worth noting nevertheless.

Tolerances are a major concern with sleeping aids, including Ambien. Users will take the drugs, to get to sleep or to get high, and soon will require more of the compounds to achieve the same effect. The greater the tolerance, the greater opportunity for a substance use disorder to develop in turn.

As one may imagine, tolerances and dependences are counterproductive to a sustainable sleeping pattern and lifestyle alike. However, treatment is possible. Whether at home or in the care of medical professionals, recovery from Ambien starts with a detox program — and one of the most effective techniques is known as an Ambien taper.

Tapering Ambien | Ambien Taper Schedule
While it has been established that the need for sleep drives millions to try Ambien, this same need can quickly spiral out of control, necessitating some form of clinical intervention. An Ambien taper plan provides a respite and recovery to such users. But, with every detox comes inherent challenges. Perhaps none more disconcerting than Ambien’s benzo-like withdrawal.

This is truly the point of tapering Ambien: reducing or thwarting a withdrawal. These painful and uncomfortable episodes are what pushes thousands of sleeping-pill users away from seeking treatment. Because Ambien is so similar to benzodiazepines the withdrawals are parallel, too. This is especially unfortunate, as benzos stake the claim for among the worst withdrawals around. It goes without saying then: withdrawals are a pain, physically and metaphorically.

Most users are unaware that they are utterly avoidable. In addition to withdrawal evasion, and because of its gradual nature, an Ambien taper schedule lays the groundwork for a life without z-drugs. It takes time for one’s body, mind, and, of course, sleep cycle to recover. Tapering provides this luxury in spades. With withdrawals successfully quelled and body and mind back in proper order, recovery becomes a more achievable prospect.

An Ambien taper at a certified rehabilitation center is favored over at-home detoxes. Nothing can replace the expertise, guidance, and support of medical professionals in a user’s most desperate times of need. If at-home programs are unpopular, going cold turkey is outright rejected. Time is a patient’s friend is recovery — cold turkey robs the body of much-need healing time while leaving it vulnerable to symptoms of withdrawal. Symptoms such as:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscular weakness
  • Aching
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Spasms
  • Cramping
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure

Plus, more severe psychological symptoms:

  • Panic attacks
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Agitation
  • Depression

Withdrawal side effects can arise as early as four hours after an Ambien dose is taken. This is because the drug has a very short timespan in the body. Experts place peak withdrawal symptoms at approximately five days and lingering symptoms lasting two weeks or longer. An Ambien taper schedule or Ambien taper chart places a user on the right path toward recovery, sans such a withdrawal.

Reductions of 10 percent per week are suggested, with 25 percent being the greatest extent at which an Ambien taper should be pushed.

Sometimes a traditional taper isn’t the best course, though. This choice is up to a patient and their respective physician, but, another way does exist. In the case of benzodiazepines, doctors may choose to substitute one benzo for another. For example, if a patient were taking a short-acting drug like Xanax, they may be switched to a regimen of Valium which lasts longer in the body. The greater the dose’s extent, the more time there is to gradually adapt to its absence. Seeing as Ambien contains comparable sedative properties as benzodiazepines, some rehab facilities will choose a substitution taper — Ambien to a long-acting benzo — as a solution.

Regardless of methodology, tapering Ambien offers a chance that patients might not otherwise have known existed at all. With time, recovering Ambien users can resolve their dependence as well as fix their sleeping pattern in the process.

Worried about your Ambien use? Concerned that someone you love may be addicted to prescription drugs or alcohol? The Recovery Village is here to help. With individualized care plans and locations across the country, this renowned center can provide exactly the kind of care you or your loved one need. Call 352.771.2700 today to learn more. 

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.