Ambien Withdrawal & Detox Program

Authored by First City Recovery Center    Reviewed by Dr. Vahid Osman    Last Updated: October 1st, 2021


Dr. Vahid Osman Medical Reviewer
Dr. Vahid Osman, MD is a psychiatry specialist in Indianapolis, IN. Dr. Osman completed a residency at Austin State Hospital. He has over 32 years of experience in Psychiatry & Behavioral Health. He is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Ambien Dependence, Withdrawal, and Detox

Sleep disorders have become far too common in the United States. According to recent statistics, up to 70 million Americans have some sort of sleeping disorder. This is not a minor issue since sleep deprivation can lead to a slew of physical and emotional issues, including various chronic conditions and, in severe cases, even death.

To deal with sleeping problems, many people turn to Ambien. There is no question that this sedative can help people fall asleep, but sadly, there is also ample information that shows how easily people can become dependent on the drug in order to get the sleep they need. This can create big problems for people if they try to end their treatment, and it can result in withdrawal issues.

According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than half a million people abuse Ambien in some way. Other reports have noted that individuals can easily become dependent on the drug. People who try to stop treatment may experience significant withdrawal symptoms, resulting in them resuming Ambien use.

While there is no question that people can become dependent on Ambien, there is also good news. With proper treatment and guidance, there is ample information to show that people can minimize the pain of Ambien withdrawal and detoxification.

What Is Ambien?

Ambien — also known by its clinical name of zolpidem — is a sleep aid. It is part of the class of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics. It works with your brain to slow mental activity and allows you to get a good night’s sleep. Users are advised to take the drug on an empty stomach, just before bedtime, and it typically works quickly. However, users are urged to make sure that their schedules allow time to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep, or they may wake up feeling unwell and groggy.

Ambien is popular because it works well and usually works quickly. More than 10 million prescriptions are written for the drug every year.

How Do People Become Dependent on Ambien?

While Ambien is unquestionably a successful drug for helping people get to sleep, individuals who use Ambien may find that they’re becoming dependent on the drug in order to sleep. This is because they may lose the ability to sleep without the medication.

To be clear, Ambien is not addictive in the same way that benzodiazepines and opioids are. However, that does not mean that there is no risk to an Ambien addiction.

Ambien, like all sleep aids, is typically used best as a short-term medication. This means that the best practice is to use the drug to help you get through a particularly stressful period and then stop taking it. Taking Ambien for an extended period may result in depending on it in order to sleep. Also, taking the drug for a longer period may cover up more serious physical or psychological problems of which lack of sleep is a symptom.

What Are the Signs of Ambien Withdrawal or Abuse?

Unfortunately, as useful as Ambien can be, it does come with many negative side effects when users stop using it. Stopping Ambien after only a few weeks of use can result in withdrawal symptoms, although this depends on a variety of factors, including the strength of the drug, how often you took it, and your own physiology.

The chief symptom of Ambien withdrawal, of course, is a lack of sleep or more difficulty in being able to fall asleep. However, there are a variety of other symptoms. These include:

• Psychological problems such as anxiety attacks or confusion
• Feeling sick or unwell
• Tremors
• Nausea, vomiting, and upset stomach
• Difficulty in speaking
• In more extreme cases, seizures or hallucinations

Some things make a person more likely to suffer from moderate or severe withdrawal symptoms. These factors include:

• A person having a history of substance abuse or illegal drug use
• Heavy or long-term Ambien use that was stopped abruptly
• Snorting or injecting the drug instead of taking it as a pill

Withdrawal symptoms are more likely to be experienced by someone who is abusing the drug. In this instance, a person has likely been taking higher than the recommended dose, resulting in serious withdrawal symptoms.

Fortunately, available evidence indicates that for someone who is withdrawing from Ambien, symptoms usually cease in no more than a few weeks after stopping the drug. However, this can be an extremely painful period, and in some cases, the symptoms of withdrawal can be so severe that a person resumes using Ambien. If this happens, it may be a sign that a more serious addiction issue is at play, and the person should seek the advice of a physician.

How Can Someone Stop Using Ambien?

Given the potential for withdrawal and other negative side effects, individuals should speak with a medical professional before they stop taking Ambien. Stopping treatment of the drug cold turkey may not be a good idea, depending on how strong a dosage you have been taking and how long you have been taking the drug.

Instead, consider gradually reducing the dosage of Ambien, taking a smaller amount over a set period of time, thus managing the side effects and allowing your body the chance to adjust to life without the drug. This should eventually allow you to completely stop using the drug.

Above all else, make sure to speak with a doctor. They may have better advice on the best way for you to quit Ambien, given your personal history.

When Should Someone Seek Professional Help?

In some cases, an individual may need professional help to stop using or abusing Ambien. This may be necessary for someone who has been using Ambien for a long time, has tried — and failed — to quit using Ambien in the past, or has a history of substance use and abuse problems.

Generally speaking, there are certain circumstances in which a person should turn to professionals for help with Ambien withdrawal. These include:

• Inability to stop taking Ambien after multiple attempts to do so
• Taking Ambien in ways not prescribed by a doctor, including snorting, injecting, or for reasons other than sleep
• Attempts to stop taking Ambien have been met with severe physical or emotional symptoms that interfere with your ability to function
• Upon the advice of a medical professional who may have a better understanding of your medical history

How Can Ambien Withdrawal Be Treated?

Fortunately, despite the difficulties presented by Ambien abuse, there are a series of medically proven treatment options that can help you stop using the drug. These include the following methods:

Medically Assisted Detoxification

Also known as detox, this is the process by which an individual purges the chemicals from a medication that they have been addicted to or dependent on. The time that detox may take varies from medication to medication, and may also be dependent upon how long a person has been using the drug.

Medically assisted detoxification usually involves working with professionals to help you manage the symptoms of withdrawal, which can increase in intensity when you are going through detox. Depending on the specifics of your circumstances, you may be provided with medication that can help you ease the pain of detox.

Therapy

Therapy can be very useful for dealing with Ambien withdrawal in many ways. First and foremost, therapy may be able to help you develop specific skills that can enable you to better manage the pain caused by withdrawal and detox. A variety of studies show that therapy can help people learn the coping skills necessary to manage withdrawal.

Additionally, therapy can help a person once they have gone through withdrawal symptoms, as the individual in question may still have problems sleeping. Therapy can help people develop healthy sleeping habits, learn how to manage insomnia, improve their sleep hygiene, and practice relaxation skills that will ultimately result in getting better and sufficient sleep.

Inpatient Therapy

In extreme cases, a client may need inpatient therapy in order to deal with Ambien withdrawal. This occurs when a person is a danger to themselves or others or may benefit from more intensive therapy. During inpatient treatment, a client is monitored 24 hours a day and provided with individual and group therapy and medication management. Depending on the facility in question, they may also engage in group or individual recreational activities such as yoga, meditation, or art therapy.

If you or someone you love is suffering from the negative symptoms of Ambien withdrawal or addiction, please know that you do not have to experience this pain alone. You should seek treatment as soon as possible. In order to do that, reach out today to First City Recovery Center.

At First City, we have a wide array of treatment options available for you or your loved one, including medical detoxification and partial hospitalization, that can help you defeat your addiction. The healthy life you want to live is within reach. Call our team today at 1-877-595-3330.

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