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Cold turkey Ambien

Ambien – also known as zolpidem – is classified as a sedative-hypnotic prescribed to treat short term insomnia. Ambien contains benzodiazepine qualities which affect withdrawal symptoms and can be dangerous if you try to quit Ambien cold turkey.

Here, we review why tapering off Ambien is recommended and how you can plan to get off Ambien slowly. Then, we invite your questions about Ambien detox, withdrawal, Ambien addiction help, or problems with Ambien at the end.

Going cold turkey Ambien?

Going cold turkey off Ambien can be dangerous and is not reccommended. After even a short period of time, Ambien has a high depednecy rate and high potential for abuse. While you may want to quit taking Ambien for the benefit of your health, going cold turkey off Ambien means a rapid reduction of zolpidem in the body. When you do this though your body quickly reacts to the process and depending on the severity of reaction, can be a potentially dangerous process. So what happens when you stop Ambien cold turkey? And what can you expect?

Cold turkey off Ambien

Here’s a simple explanation for what happens when you go cold turkey off Ambien. Since your body can’t compensate for the lack of zolpidem, when you stop Ambien cold turkey, the central nervous system works overtime trying to figure out how it should behave. Your body is flooded with chemical information. Additionally, the intensity of a cold turkey withdrawal is greater than when you choose to withdrawal with a taper. But what can happen exactly?

Cold turkey Ambien withdrawal

When you stop taking Ambien, withdrawal usually starts about 4 hours after the last dose of Ambien has worn off. Acute symptoms of withdrawal can peak and last a couple of days after peak withdrawal. The severity of withdrawal should start to even out in about a week. At this time you should begin to feel normal. However, after a few weeks you might experience continued mood swing, nightmares, and insomnia which can last longer than a few weeks. Other possible withdraw from Ambien symptoms  include:

  • abdominal cramps
  • anxiety
  • apprehension
  • convulsions
  • dysphoria (extreme dissatisfaction with life)
  • exacerbated insomnia
  • fatigue
  • fear
  • hallucinations
  • mood changes
  • muscle cramps
  • nausea
  • nightmares
  • panic attacks
  • shaking
  • sweating
  • tremors
  • vomiting

Note that if you experience physical dependence to Ambien you may have a harder and longer time during withdrawal.

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Stopping Ambien cold turkey risks

Stopping Ambien cold turkey can be dangerous because of possible rebound insomnia. You can also have extreme nightmare and panic attacks which can be severe and compromising your health. Convulsions, fatigue, lightheadedness, nervousness, and panic attacks are also more prevalent when you go cold turkey off Ambien. Additionally, consider that a cold turkey Ambien withdrawal can be so uncomfortable that you start taking Ambien again to avoid it. If this is the case, plan withdrawal carefully and talk to a doctor to learn strategies that can help you through the process.

Quitting Ambien cold turkey

Ambien can be a scary drug to stop suddenly. And in order to quit Ambien cold turkey, it would be ideal if you are in optimal health and that you have no compromising health conditions which would adversely affect your cold turkey withdrawal. If you can make sure you take care of your insomnia or have other ways to take care of it may be helpful for when withdrawal occurs. Withdrawal can bring up a lot of things you’re not prepared for and having all the available information to make the process as easy as possible is also important. Nonetheless, always consult with your prescribing doctor for medical advice before starting to quit Ambien cold turkey.

Get off Ambien cold turkey

Withdrawal from Ambien doesn’t have to be a painful and debilitating process. Doctors do know that stopping Ambien cold turkey is sometimes unavoidable. However, it’s recommended you have supervision of some sort to help you for when you start to go through withdrawal. That way, if anything goes wrong as you withdraw from zolpidem you can get the help you need. Seek a tapering schedule from your prescribing doctor or pharmacist for zolpidem. These individualized calendars often mirror the tapering schedule for benzodiazepines. Be prepared to avoid unnecessary discomfort and plan to treat symptomatic problems as they arise.

Can I quit Ambien cold turkey?

If you have a severe dependency or having been abusing/addicted to Ambien for a long time you should be careful about stopping Ambien cold turkey. This method of stopping Ambien can have negative and adverse effects. Withdrawal from Ambien should always be performed under medical supervision or with a medical expert that can help you if complications to arise during the cold turkey process.

But in the end, it is up to you whether or not you want to quit Ambien cold turkey. Weigh the risks and make sure you know what you are getting into and that you have everything you need to treat and help your recovery from Ambien use.

Questions about cold turkey Ambien

More questions…Do you still have questions about stopping Ambien cold turkey? Please provide your questions in the comment section below. We would also like to hear from people who have tried stopping cold turkey. Your experiences are important to us and we try to respond to all comments personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: PubMed: Zolpidem
NCBI: Abuse, dependence, and epileptic seizures after zolpidem withdrawal
NCBI: Mapping Barbarite Withdrawal
NHTSA: Zolpidem

Photo credit: Ambien drug label

Leave a Reply

30 Responses to “Cold turkey Ambien
Pearl Brake
2:51 am September 14th, 2013

Can I take 1/2 zolpidem and taper off safely?

2:01 pm September 16th, 2013

Hi Pearl. Did you take zolpidem only once or over an extended period of time?

Kris
4:07 pm February 4th, 2014

Hi, I stopped ambien cold turkey almost 9 months ago. Recently, I have had streaks of good sleep with the help of melatonin and good sleep hygiene. However, I’ve had and currently having nights where it is incredibly difficult to fall asleep (I’ve accomplished around 2 hours per night the last 3 nights.) I guess my question is: Does quitting ambien cold turkey result differently than tapering down? Should I be finding relief by now? Am I judging this too soon?

Kris
4:09 pm February 4th, 2014

Edit: I was on ambien for about 2 years. I had been on hypnotics\tranquilizers for about 5 years prior.

11:29 am February 5th, 2014

Hi Kris. Sleep is a physical and psychological phenomenon. Give it some time. With more practice, you can get into a good sleep rhythm. Also, are you working with a sleep consultant? It can be helpful to have a set of principles from which to operate.

Kris
4:02 pm February 6th, 2014

@Addiction Blog Network
First off, thanks for replying. It’s refreshing to get feedback finally. It’s terrifying that endlessly searching for answers on the internet has given zero answers. You say “give it time”. I quit ambien May, 11th 2013. I’ve done really well up until now. The month of January was awesome as far as sleep goes (Around 6 hours per night/ 5 nights out of the week give or take). All up until this past Saturday (2/1/14). Around 2-4 hours per night since then with much frustration. There’s no explanation for it? I don’t know how many cases you’ve seen, but is this normal? Is this rebound insomnia? Also, I’m not working with a sleep consultant. I don’t really know how to go about getting one. We have a sleep center in my town but I wasn’t accepted into the program. I was prescribed another med which I can’t remember what it was called. I gave up on it and got back on ambien for another year until I decided to stop taking it and start natural remedies.

Bruce
2:19 pm March 21st, 2014

I went cold turkey from ambien exactly one week ago, quiet inadvertently. I had been using them on and off for years but most recently for at least 2 months nightly, usually 1/2 tablet at bedtime and 1/2 tablet when I woke up during the night to get back to sleep. I realize now that in dosing myself this was, I was keeping more medicine in my body and creating more of a dependency. The issue is that during this last week I have had hideously intense nightmares, with the same nightmare continuing or recurring after waking and falling back to sleep. I’m exhausted from the experience. Since a week has gone by I am hesitant to re-start only to taper the medication in hopes of lighting up the side of effects of the withdrawal. The other side effect that most bothers me is back pain and stiffness which I’m not sure relates to the withdrawal or simply the need for a better bed. Any comments about the correct course to chart from here would be greatly appreciated especially any methodology to avoid continued nightmares. How much longer can I expect these symptoms to last?

Brandon
12:59 pm March 26th, 2014

I was prescribed ambien and took it for approximately two weeks with the correct dose but then I ended up running into a few nights that I’d only get 4 hours of sleep. So I skipped out on taking it for those two nights because your technically suppose to take it on 8 hours of sleep. So the next day or two after skipping the previous two nights, I felt really weird and emotional, I was easily fearful of stuff i would never usually fear. At times id also feel anxiety over stuff i shoukdnt stress about. I was getting easily dizzy and I had a sense of light headedness and almost felt as if my vision had gotten worse almost as if I was near sighted. These symptoms weren’t extreme but the only thing that seems to bother me was being easily dizzy and my vision being slightly blurry when it came to objects in the distant. so of course I dumped the rest of my pills and then down the toilet and never took them again I have been cold turkey for about a week now and I feel as if my anxiety has decreased and as if my fear fullness has went away the only problem I’m still having is the light headedness being easily dizzy and my slightly blurred vision for objects in the distant. this kinda is a problem for me because I Drive every day as my job so seeing road signs up ahead that I usually could make out Are now slightly blurry, not extremely but slightly almost like my eyes can’t focus in. I know its only been a week but I was wondering if you’ve had anybody else that has had a situation like mine and how long it usually last until it goes back to normal or if there’s any helpful tips that you may have For me. I can deal with going cold turkey I just wanna make sure that this isn’t going to be permanent that I want to make sure that everything will go back to normal. I would really appreciate your help please and thank you

scott
2:07 pm April 8th, 2014

I had been taking zolpidem 5/10 mg each night for 25 days consecutively until I realised they had started to lose effect, giving me only 3/4 hours sleep each night. I decided to come off cold turkey 6 nights ago and I have only managed to sleep 1or 2 hours each night. Is this likely to be due to withdrawal symptoms and how long can I expect them to last? I want to get back to sleeping my usual 8/9 hours again!

10:44 am April 9th, 2014

Hello Scott. Rebound insomnia is a symptom of Ambien withdrawal and can take a few days to resolve. I’d suggest that you consult with a sleep specialist to be sure that lifestyle changes: diet, exercise, meditation…are optimized to ensure successful sleeping. But, the period of withdrawal will pass…just make sure that you have some strategies on hand.

John
2:46 am August 28th, 2014

If I quit taking abien, could I have chest pains?

2:02 pm September 1st, 2014

Hi John. When withdrawing from Ambien some individuals experience chest pains. This severe discomfort in the chest is usually caused by not enough oxygen going to the heart because of narrowing of the blood vessels or spasms.

Jack
4:04 pm September 12th, 2014

Is it true that withdrawal effects can start as soon as 4 hours after the last dose wears off? I take 5-10mg at night, say at 11pm, so it should wear off by about 9am at the latest meaning that withdrawal effects could start as soon as 1pm? That just doesn’t seem right to me. It would mean that every person prescribed this medication for the sole purpose it’s marketed for would be succeptible to withdrawal symptoms every day, No? No wonder I’ve felt like shit everyday for the past five years if that’s the case.

D @Jack
6:39 am October 26th, 2014

I’ve been on Ambien for a couple years now and quit cold turkey a few days ago. I’ve been experiencing daytime withdrawal symptoms since shortly after I started Ambien and the only relief I have from the symptoms is for a few hours that starts about two hours after taking it each night. I think that it affects everyone differently but for some of us, YES, definitely, there are horrible side effects from this medication but I continued to take it because it is the only way that I could get sleep as I’ve also had severe insomnia for over a decade. I am averaging 3-5 hours of sleep right now even though i am miserable having quit cold turkey but the 3-5 is still more than I was getting before I started on the Ambien. I’ve decided being in an almost constant state of withdrawal is not worth predictable sleep so hopefully I can keep from taking it again despite the insomnia and feeling pretty bad and stop having withdrawal every day. Its a hard choice, having to choose between sleep or withdrawal symptoms.

Christine
8:45 am November 1st, 2014

I have had severe withdrawals from Ambien due to the incompetence of the prescriber and/or the pharmacy. I have been trying to get my prescription filled for over two weeks. My doctors’ office says they’ve had no request from my pharmacy and the pharmacy claims they get no response from the doctors’ office. I’ve experienced horrible insomnia, body pain, and nausea with severe headaches and brain fog. It’s been over ten days since my last dose of 12.5 mg. I have been taking it for nearly four years, beginning at 10 mg, with the increase to 12.5 mg just six to eight months ago.

Susan
8:13 pm November 29th, 2014

I quit high doses of ambien cold turkey 4 days ago. The 1st day was extremely bad. Almost went to the ER but didn’t. Day 2 was bad but nothing like day 1. Finally slept yesterday and today I feel normal. If you don’t have to go cold turkey then DON’T. Tremers and panic were the worst withdrawal symptoms for me. I’ve worked 3rd shift for 10 years and have serious insomnia, used 10mg to 100mg daily for a year. Glad its over, never again.

ana
3:33 am April 27th, 2015

might have taken 4 ambian pills starting at 8 pm last night . took a pherntermine at 2pm> started getting sick, threw up and dizzy at4pm today still dizzy at 930 pm? should I eat? am I detozing from ambien and should take one? feeling not as dizzy as before but still scared

Carolyn
1:26 am June 12th, 2015

I have been taking ambien for about 3 years and quit cold turkey now for 7 days. Have been itching for the last 3 days all over my body. Is this due to quitting amnien cold turkey? Also have been unsteady while walking.

tom
5:23 am June 15th, 2015

I have been taking 5 mgm of ambien for several years. in the last 2 months I started takeing about 7.5 mgm per nite because the increase dose gave me a better nites sleep. Last week I went in to my pharm to pickup a refill. They denied me because I was due another refill for 20 days or so. With only 3 nites worth left, I began feeling a bit addicted since I was fearful of not have any for 2 weeks. So, I had a long weekend ahead and decided to go cold turkey. The first two nites were pretty miserable and I did not get to sleep until almost dawn. The third nite, last nite, I slept fitfully but much better, waking up about every 2 hours and having more than usual dreams. Tonite, nite # four awaits me. I hope to sleep better than the first 3 nites. I have felt very fatiqued during each day and unusually moody. I read your cold turkey advice this evening and I guess it is a bit too late to start a measured reduction. I have nothing else to aid me in sleeping, so I am hoping that lack of sleep will encougage my sleeping tonite. tom

Lindsey
2:59 pm September 20th, 2015

Hello! In March of 2015 I stop sleeping it was like one night I was sleep good then the next night nothing. After a few week of not sleeping or very little sleep I went to the doctor she prescribe me Ambien to sleep. I was on it for 4 months. Over a week ago call to it a refill of Ambien she told me that she would not give me another refill. And basically told me to stop taking it. I was force to quit Ambien cold turkey. I experince pretty much the all symptoms that is listed in this article for a few days ( which is hell by the way)

I switch new doctor since because I was having such a hard time detoxing he agree I should not take anymore Ambien since I was all ready off of it. But did he prescribe me 0.25mg Xanax for the really horrible I was having anxiety. I don’t like being on it but it is helping the anxiety. Anyway I am still having insomnia it been 10 days since my last Ambien. Will my brain eventually come back to it normal state in time? I am taking Melention at night 5mg and drinking chamomile tea in the evening. Anyway I would love to hear any advice. Thanks!

3:56 pm September 21st, 2015

Hi Lindsey. The withdrawal symptoms you are experiencing are a result of taking Ambien for much longer than you should have, and your doctor should have known better. The new one that put you on Xanax also forgot to mention than dependence and tolerance to Xanax for just as easily and you will be experiencing adverse withdrawal effects if you continue to use it for a prolonged period of time (any time longer than 2 weeks TOPS). Also, one of the withdrawal symptoms of Ambien includes insomnia – the very condition the medication is used to treat in the first place. Prescription medications are never a long-term solution.

K
7:14 pm November 5th, 2015

I have been taking a low dose of Ambien daily for about 3 years now. (usually just half of a 5mg tablet per night; sometimes the full 5mg dose). Initially it seemed to be the answer to a lifetime (I’m a 40 year old single mom) of insomnia. Lately though, I have these feelings of memory loss and loss of balance, like having the feeling of being very drunk while I’m walking, not being able to walk a straight line. This has been happening in the past couple weeks only, and I’m not talking about walking around at night, I’m saying right now, at noon, I took it 15 hours ago….I want to ease off of it, but every time I try, I get this terrible anxiety that I won’t be able to sleep and then I take it, despite making a commitment to myself to quit. I’m afraid to throw the pills away and I’m afraid to tell my doctor about this bc he will take ambien away from me, and I just refilled my prescription. I don’t think I”m using them addictivily, bc I never take other than as prescribed. but i don’t know how to stop. I know about all the natural sleep remedies (melatonin, valerian, etc.), but nothing else has ever worked for me. Thank you for any advice.

7:29 pm November 10th, 2015

Hi K. You should tell your doctor about all negative effect that you have, so he/she could find a solution for you. Don’t be afraid to talk about your problem, because it may become worse.

Brian
5:14 pm February 5th, 2016

I was on ambien for 10 years. 6 weeks ago I quit cold turkey. I expirence horrible withdrawals similar to what Heather Ashton’s guides outlined. Most of the symptoms have subsided however I still have this constant chest pain on my left side. Almost like a pin prick. I believe this is anxiety, and what to know how long this could go on for. My sleeping seems to be decent as I take 3mg melitonin and drink 2 beers at bed time. Some nights are a light sleep but I’m sleeping 6-8 hours. How long could this lingering anxiety continue for? As a side note I’m very healthy individual, I cycle and work out multiple times a week. I find working out is a must for anyone with sleeping issues.

Meg
7:51 pm March 8th, 2016

I have been taking Zolpidem for several years and it works for me. I have not experienced the side effects that some talk about such as driving while asleep etc. I remember the days when I could not sleep and how terrible I felt the next day. The problem now is that my Dr. will not refill my prescription for another 6 days because they say that it is too soon from when it was refilled 3 months ago. The refill is for 90 days however I am given 30 at a time. He always said to call in the refill a week in advance. When you calculate everything out following the logic a person will get 360 days, however there are 365 days in a year and this year 366. Anyway I have read the information about quitting cold turkey and I am very concerned about the next 6 days. I am going to try Melatonin but I still do not know what will happen and it is scary. I realize that I depend on Zolpidem but it works when nothing else would. I guess with all the regulations they have made it harder to abuse but I don’t think it is fair for those of us who really benefit and do not abuse.

Lynn
2:12 am March 23rd, 2016

I have been taking ambein since aug 2015 i started taking one at night then i felt it wasnt working so i took two and if i woke up i would take another half i would finish my 30 pills then start taking my boyfriends i even would take it during the day so now my presciption is out since yesterday and my refil cant be filled til april 11th 2016 last night i couldnt fall asleep i been up its only march 22 2016 i been feeling sweating moody and chills is it from the ambein what can i do i want to be done with it

Felicity
6:34 pm April 19th, 2016

Understand what you are going through cause I am doing the same but catching a nap during the day as well. My son takes 8/10 at a time to get four hours sleep. I am sure there are other ways to get off this stuff, but nobody seems to want to share it.

Richy
11:45 am May 2nd, 2016

In reading replys i came to a sobering realization. My dependecy is much more severe then most. I have been taking Ambien every night for the past 8 years. Y es you heard right every night for the past 8 years ( no exaggeration). The only time I stopped was when i went to europe back in 2014 for a month. I figured if i left the Zolpidem at home i would be forced to stop. It worked. I literally had zero withdrawls. When i got back to the states i did good for a handful of days but eventually returned to the evil beast. life for me is too stressful. And not sleeping is one of the things i most stress about. Some of my friends non chalantly talk about how they at times have little to no sleep. That for me is not an option. I simply can not function during the dayif i dont sleep. I have been on ambien long enough to tell you that the side effects of being on ambien faaar outweigh any withdrawl symptoms one might have when quitting. My life has changed drastically for the worst. My short term memory has deteriorated to that of early stage alzheimer’s (im 34) and thats no joke. I have been hospitalized twice in 8 years for upper respiratory infections not counting the times i got resp infections and wasnt hospitilized because my doc gave me antibiotics. But the worst of all the sides for me is what i call ” feeling dumb”. Which is the brain fog that never seems to go away. I used to be quick witted and quite bright zolpidem has robbed me of that. It keeps you in a trance which for me is more like a deep funk. And i dont want to scare anyone but the sucidal thoughts are real. For me they have hit suddenly and urgently the feeling is overwhelming. Luckily i live with an amazing girlfriend that has been there for me. But i live scared because i dont know when those thoughts will creep up on me again. And there is no worst feeling than taking Zolpidem and still not being able to sleep. I am quite unlucky in that i have a doctor who will fill my percription when ever i put in the request. And sure you may tell yourself oh im not like that guy. I will stop when i need to. Well..word to the wise learn to struggle without it. I never thought i would be on it for a year let alone 8. Yet here i am. Before you start blaming it all on me understand i have zero addictions but long term use of this zolpidem thing will desetroy your mind. For the past year i have been on anxiety meds. Youd be surprised how functioning with half the brain you used to have will stir up intense feelings of anxiety. Moral of the story if you are on ambien quit while your ahead.

alba
5:12 pm May 23rd, 2016

Im stopping ambiem cold turkey for a week now ,but Im feeling a lot of musle pain.Does it have to do with the withdrawl symptoms?I did not have it before.

ayesha
1:42 pm June 3rd, 2016

I take ambien 10 mg at night and 5 mg when I wake up since almost a year planning to go cold turkey on it as I have a month of in college plannig to cope with a set exercise schedule hopefully I will get off it with minimum withdrawal symptoms.

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