ARTICLE OVERVIEW:Ambien is pretty addictive. Users can develop a dependence within just a couple of weeks of daily dosing. Withdrawal can be difficult. This article outlines what to expect during withdrawal and ways to treat symptoms medically.
Zolpidem is the main active ingredient in Ambien. Its chemical structure is very similar to the benzodiazepine class of drugs, but zolpidem is officially called a “hypnotic”. Benzodiazepines are prescribed for a variety of reasons and attach to neurons within our brain responsible for sensations, emotions, muscle movements, and cognition.
Because of this, zolpidem causes its user to become sedated without experiencing the other qualities of benzodiazepines. However, after regular or daily use, you can become physically dependent on zolpidem. This makes quitting Ambien both hard and potentially dangerous.
Is Ambien Withdrawal Hard?
Yes, quitting Ambien isn’t going to be easy.
To begin, you need to take the following facts about yourself into account:
Overall health state
Time length and frequency of use
In general, the long you’ve been using Ambien … the harder detox will be. If you’ve been using it for a longer time and taking high doses, then you can expect to experience a longer withdrawal process with more possible difficulties.
Still, it is difficult to know how long withdrawal will last or how difficult it be. Why? Because we are individuals. We each use drugs for different reasons. Likewise, use patterns and dependency differ.
Again, people with higher levels of dependence are more likely to experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Severe seizures might occur and even be fatal. People with certain mental health issues are also at risk. For these reasons, Ambien withdrawals should always be carried out under medical supervision.
2. Week 1. After the first week, acute withdrawal tends to resolve. Symptoms have lessened to a great extent, but not the cravings. Also, many people find themselves experiencing depression and paranoia during this period. A tendency to experience trouble sleeping, or nightmares, is still present; in particular, for those experiencing mental trauma (in general or due to the withdrawal). So, it’s important to undergo psychotherapy treatment in order to get help for coping with this situation.
3. Week 2. Cravings, depression and paranoia are not as strong as they were the week before. During this week you might feel foggy as though you can’t think straight. For this reason, it’s possible to experience mood swings. However, your sleep begins to stabilize.
4. Week 3. Your cravings have further decreased. You might still experience sleeping disorders.
5. Week 4. You definitely begin feeling better, though there may be still some traces of anxiety and/or irritability. Your sleep starts becoming really stable. Your body and brain are noticeably getting back to their normal functioning.
The most common PAWS symptoms associated with Ambien are:
When planning to quit Ambien, always seek medical consultation with a doctor who is experienced in tapering doses of zolpidem in order to get a customized plan.
Medicines that Help
Usually doctors don’t prescribe other medications during Ambien withdrawal. Instead, they taper Ambien doses to fully resolve dependence and address insomnia simultaneously. In these cases, it can take weeks to months for a gentle taper. You can find benzo equivalent dosing schedule on Dr. Heather Ashton’s website. However, if insomnia is severe and a lack of Ambien causes it to come back, you may be prescribed a medication solely for that reason.
To date, there are very few medications available for Ambien withdrawals. Doctors don’t want to risk further addiction, so they tend to prescribe short term therapies for the instances of anxiety and depression as mental withdrawal symptoms.
Natural Remedies that Help
What can you do to get a better night sleep without the drug?
Since chronic insomnia is probably an issue for some of you, a few different natural remedies are offered below that not only help with withdrawals but also with sleep.
Distractions. When you’re going through withdrawal – particularly, psychological withdrawal – you’ll want to keep your mind occupied to outwit cravings. There are a variety of ways to do this and it all depends on who you are as an individual. Some find help in the arts (such as playing music, drawing, or writing in a journal) while others find new habits to be very beneficial (such as cooking or gardening). Don’t be afraid to experiment around while you’re in treatment. You might just learn something new about yourself.
Meditation and Yoga. Withdrawal can bring a lot of stress . Meditation and yoga not only mitigate withdrawal symptoms, but also help reducing cravings. These types of alternative therapies are also beneficial for those dealing with mental illness alongside their addiction, such as anxiety and depression.
Nutrition. While not the case for everyone, some drug users find themselves with a poor diet. However, an even bigger issue is that many drugs have the effect of absorbing much of what people eat. Drugs like Ambien can also cause loss of appetite. While in recovery, it’s vital to get your body back on track with water and healthy foods.
All of the above have potential to promote better sleep. Of course, people with chronic insomnia might need more than a natural remedy to benefit them. If this is your case, the best thing to do is to consult your doctor. Chances are they will figure out the solution right for you.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Helpline – 1-800-622-HELP (4357)
You’ll also want to reach out to family and friends. As you try to quit Ambien, you’re going to be in need of a support system. The people you can always turn back to when things get difficult. Furthermore, even after treatment when recovery is still ongoing, you’ll have people there when need be. If you’re a family member or friend of someone who’s addicted to Ambien there are a variety of options for you to seek help for your loved one.
When you do find the right treatment, you can give us a call. We’re always happy to help.
Where to Find Local Help
To find where you find local help during Ambien withdrawal, start with your family doctor and work your way out to other connections. Seek information from:
While you may be concerned about anonymity, also know that Americans are increasingly destigmatizing issues with prescription medications, especially through advocacy groups like Facing Addiction. In fact, an estimated one in three American families experiences a problem with drugs or alcohol through one close family member. So, your friends and family can also be a source of help.
If you have any further questions pertaining to Ambien withdrawal, we invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any advice to give for people currently withdrawing, we’d also love to hear from you. We try to provide a personal response to each comment and get back to you promptly.