Article at a Glance:
- Ambien is a controlled substance. It is prescribed to treat insomnia but can cause physical dependence.
- Stopping Ambien cold turkey may lead to withdrawal symptoms.
- Slowing tapering your Ambien dose under medical supervision can help you avoid withdrawal symptoms.
- A medical detox program can help you manage an Ambien taper under close medical supervision and further minimize withdrawal symptoms.
Table of Contents
Zolpidem (Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar, Intermezzo, Zolpimist) is a medication that is frequently given to people who struggle with insomnia to help them sleep. However, the medication is a Schedule IV controlled substance, meaning that it carries a risk of abuse and dependence. If you take Ambien regularly, you may gain a tolerance for the drug, where you need to take more to have the same effect. You may then develop an Ambien addiction.
Quitting Ambien cold turkey may cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if you are dependent on the drug. Having a detox plan for Ambien, where you are weaned off Ambien and any withdrawal symptoms are managed, may be the safest way to quit the drug.
What is Ambien Detox?
Detox is the process of ridding your body of a substance. During a well-managed detox, your body is weaned of Ambien while managing any withdrawal symptoms. Detox can last varying amounts of time depending on the person, often matching the length of time they’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Because Ambien withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks, the detox process would possibly last for weeks as well. Different strategies can be used to help you wean off Ambien. However, an Ambien taper is a common method that experts recommend.
Tapering Off Ambien
Ambien and its long-acting form, Ambien CR, come in several different doses. The shorter-acting Ambien comes in doses of 5mg and 10mg, while the longer-acting Ambien CR comes in 6.25mg and 12.5mg. If you are on the lower end of the dosing range, meaning Ambien 5mg or Ambien CR 6.25mg, you may be able to simply discontinue your medication without a taper. However, if you are on a higher dose, meaning Ambien 10mg or Ambien CR 12.5mg, you will likely need to taper, or slowly discontinue your dose over time.
The tapering process allows your body to get used to progressively lower amounts of Ambien while avoiding withdrawal symptoms.
Creating a Tampering Plan
Your doctor can help create a tapering plan that works best for minimizing your withdrawal symptoms as you wean yourself off Ambien. Generally, tapering off Ambien while beginning therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, or CBT-I, is recommended. Commonly Ambien tapers involve either:
- Reducing your dose by 25% of your original dose every week
- Reducing your dose by 25% of your original dose every other week
When you become physically dependent on a substance like Ambien, your body and brain begin to expect its presence, chemically adapting to the drug. For this reason, if you suddenly stop the drug, you can experience withdrawal symptoms as your body struggles to adjust to not having the drug present. In the case of Ambien, the drug influences the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, in the brain. Suddenly stopping Ambien can cause withdrawal symptoms related to how the brain uses GABA.
Ambien Withdrawal Symptoms
If you are taking a low dose of Ambien and stop the drug, you may notice increased trouble sleeping for a couple of days. However, taking higher doses of Ambien, particularly if you take higher doses than prescribed, can lead to additional symptoms. Withdrawal from high-dose Ambien can lead to a variety of unpleasant symptoms, such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Confusion, delirium or disorientation
- High blood pressure
- Trouble sleeping
- Speech problems
If you find a taper too difficult to manage on your own, a medical detox center can help you come off Ambien while avoiding withdrawal.
Long-Term Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms typically disappear or significantly decrease within a few weeks after a person stops Ambien. However, each patient’s withdrawal timeline is different, and withdrawal effects vary from patient to patient.
Factors that can influence a person’s withdrawal symptoms may include how long they took the medication and how high of a dose they took. Although a medical professional may recommend therapy like CBT-I to treat insomnia linked to Ambien withdrawal, a few drugs treat the actual withdrawal effects. For example, anti-seizure medications may be recommended for patients who suffer from seizures during the withdrawal process.
Medical Detox from Ambien
Medical detox is the first step in quitting Ambien. In medical detox, you are admitted to a facility where you are tapered off Ambien under round-the-clock medical care. In this setting, any withdrawal symptoms can be immediately addressed. After detox is complete, the process of rehab can help you explore why you began to rely on Ambien and give you the skills needed to live life without Ambien and avoid relapses.
Different rehab options are available, including:
- Inpatient Treatment: In inpatient treatment, you put your outside life on pause and undergo rehab on-site to heal from your Ambien addiction. The amount of time you stay in the facility depends on the severity of the addiction.
- Intensive Outpatient Treatment: Another form of outpatient treatment, IOP, allows you to live at home or in a sober living environment while still having a high level of support from your addiction facility.
- Outpatient Treatment: As you recover from your struggle with Ambien, the Recovery Village also offers more independent outpatient treatment options, including teletherapy options. Outpatient rehab often follows inpatient rehab but may also be an option for less-severe Ambien addictions.
- Aftercare: After detox and rehab are complete, the lifelong process of aftercare begins. During this time, you take the skills you learned through The Recovery Village and apply them to everyday life, focusing on your sobriety. Support groups like 12-step programs are an important cornerstone of aftercare.
Find the Help You Need
Struggling with a controlled substance like Ambien is common. Luckily, help is here. Our addiction experts at The Recovery Village can help wean you off Ambien and start you on the road to an Ambien-free life. Don’t wait; call us today.
Drug Enforcement Administration. “Controlled Substances.” November 22, 2020. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
Chiaro, Giacomo; Castelnovo, Anna; Bianco, Giovanni; et al. “Severe Chronic Abuse of Zolpidem in Refractory Insomnia.” Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, July 15, 2018. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
Heydari, Mostafa; Isfeedvajani, Mohsen Saberi. “Zolpidem dependence, abuse and withdrawal: A case report.” Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, November 2013. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
Drugs.com. “Zolpidem.” July 4, 2020. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
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.