Ambien Withdrawal and Detox
Some important pieces of information to remember:
- Ambien is a highly prescribed medication used to treat the sleep disorder insomnia.
- Ambien has a low potential for addiction, but the potential increases for people with substance use problems.
- Stopping Ambien abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms that are uncomfortable or dangerous.
- Ambien withdrawal usually only lasts about one week.
- Since Ambien detox can cause seizures and coma, a medically supervised detox is recommended.
Understanding Ambien Withdrawal and Detox
Ambien is a prescription sleep medication commonly prescribed in the United States. The generic name for Ambien is zolpidem, and it comes in a variety of dosage forms. Zolpidem may be sold as immediate-release tablets, extended-release tablets, oral spray or a sublingual (under the tongue) tablet.
Ambien is a schedule IV medication in the United States – one that has a low potential for abuse and addiction and a recognized medical use.
Ambien does not pose a big addiction threat to most people. However, those with a history of addiction or substance abuse may be at high risk of Ambien abuse that can ultimately lead to addiction.
Ambien Withdrawal Symptoms
To experience withdrawal symptoms, someone must first develop a drug dependence. Dependence is when brain cells (or neurons) adapt to the repeated presence of a drug and only function normally when the drug is around.
After the development of dependence, brain cells function differently when the drug is no longer present. When the drug is stopped (or taken away), the brain cells continue to compensate for the presence of the drug, and this is the origin of withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms are defined by the uncomfortable physical or psychological effects that we experience when brain cells are rewiring themselves back to normal functioning.
During clinical trials of Ambien, withdrawal symptoms were reported for participants within the first 48 hours of stopping the drug.
Physical Withdrawal Symptoms
Physical withdrawal symptoms of Ambien withdrawal can include:
- Abdominal (stomach) cramps
- Flushing (redness in the face and skin)
- Muscle Cramps
- Panic attack
Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms
Ambien also causes psychological or behavioral withdrawal symptoms. They may include:
- Mood changes
- Uncontrolled crying
Symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) describes a prolonged set of withdrawal symptoms that can last long after symptoms should have stopped.
Most withdrawal symptoms end after 1-2 weeks, so symptoms lasting longer than this are unusual. People who abuse large amounts of a drug over a long period are more likely to experience PAWS.
PAWS symptoms tend to be mood and psychologically related, rather than physical. The time course of PAWS is unpredictable, and it is not well known if Ambien causes it.
Protracted Withdrawal Symptoms
Protracted withdrawal symptoms are the same things as PAWS. While other sedative-hypnotics like benzodiazepines are known to cause protracted withdrawal, it is not well known if Ambien does as well.
Can You Die from Ambien Withdrawal?
Ambien withdrawal has been known to produce coma and seizures, which can cause death. However, there are no specifically reported cases of death from Ambien withdrawal in the medical literature.
How Long Does Ambien Withdrawal Last?
The Ambien withdrawal length is typically between 1-2 weeks. The initial detox period for Ambien lasts less than two (and in most cases one) day(s).
Withdrawal symptoms begin within 48 hours and continue for a few days after.
For those with significant substance abuse problems, PAWS may begin after the first few weeks and last for several months or more.
Help with Ambien Withdrawal
Ambien withdrawal can be uncomfortable and is a primary reason that people have a hard time quitting Ambien abuse. Withdrawal symptoms can cause cravings that continue the cycle of addiction.
Understanding and working through withdrawal symptoms are important steps in treating addiction. Some strategies to consider:
- Medical Detox: Medical detox occurs in an inpatient or residential facility with the help of trained addiction professionals. Medical detox may also occur in an emergency department or hospital before addiction treatment starts.
- Remedies: There are no known effective remedies to treat withdrawal symptoms of Ambien withdrawal. However, melatonin is a safe over-the-counter (OTC) treatment option that may help return a person to a regular sleep cycle.
- Alternative Treatments for Ambien Withdrawal: Some people have tried treating Ambien withdrawal with alcohol, benzodiazepines or other drugs. Mixing substances is incredibly dangerous and can lead to worsening addiction issues.
- Outpatient Detox: For those with a mild substance abuse issue, outpatient detox is an option. During outpatient detox, someone discusses detox and withdrawal with their primary care provider (PCP), and the PCP can monitor withdrawal symptoms through appointments. They can also prescribe certain medications to treat withdrawal symptoms like nausea, vomiting and others.
Detoxing at Home
Experiencing an Ambien detox at home can be dangerous and should not be done without the help of a medical professional.
- Risks of “A Cold Turkey” detox: Stopping Ambien “cold turkey” can lead to serious side effects like seizures and coma, conditions that, if not treated, can be fatal. Cold turkey discontinuation also increases the risk of cravings, which leads to addiction relapse.
- Controlled Taper: Controlled tapers are usually accomplished by reducing the number of days per week someone takes the drug. A prescriber has the person take Ambien seven days per week for one week, then six days per week for two weeks, then five days per week for two weeks, etc. Tapering off Ambien in a slow, controlled manner helps to alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal and prevent rebound cravings.
Finding a Detox Center
Detoxing from Ambien alone can be dangerous, but it doesn’t have to be – and you don’t have to go through this process alone. The Recovery Village Columbus is a detox center located in Ohio. For those needing treatment in the area or those looking for an option away from home, call The Recovery Village Columbus to speak with a representative.
- Aragona, M. “Abuse, Dependence, and Epileptic Seizures after Zolpidem Withdrawal: Review and Case Report.”. Accessed Aug 8, 2019.
- DailyMed. “Ambien Package Insert.” 2019. Accessed Aug 8, 2019.
- MedlinePlus “Zolpidem: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” 2019. Accessed Aug 8, 2019.
- Mayo Clinic “Ambien: Is Dependence a Concern?” 2018. Accessed Aug 8, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village Columbus 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.