What is Ambien withdrawal?
Thinking about quitting Ambien or zolpidem?
If you have been taking Ambien for less than two weeks, you can usually stop taking Ambien without having to worry about tapering doses or dealing with severe withdrawal. But if you’ve been taking Ambien for more than a couple of weeks, when you withdraw from Ambien you can expect Ambien tolerance symptoms to induce a frenetic feeling in the body and possible return of insomnia. So how long to be dependent on Ambien, how long does Ambien withdrawal last and what can help ease symptoms? We review here. And then we invite your questions about withdrawing from Ambien at the end.
What is Ambien withdrawal syndrome?
Ambien is prescribed to treat insomnia – difficulty staying or falling asleep. The main ingredient in Ambien, zolpidem, is a sedative-hypnotic that slows activity in the brain to allow for sleep. However, it is not recommended that you take Ambien for longer than two weeks at a time. Why? Because after two weeks of taking Ambien daily, your body can develop a dependence on zolpidem and you will then experience withdrawal symptoms once you decide to stop taking Ambien.
If you have been taking Ambien longer than two weeks, once you have abruptly stopped using Ambien or cut back significantly on zolpidem dosage, the body will experience a period of withdrawal. Withdrawal happens because the brain is trying to Ambien, you can actually experience rebound insomnia. Withdrawing from Ambien is uncomfortable and people who have developed a dependence may try to avoid symptoms by taking more Ambien.
What is withdrawal from Ambien like?
Withdrawing from Ambien can be uncomfortable as the body is no longer in a relaxed, sedative state. Instead, as zolpidem leaves the body you feel like you’re in a frenetic state of activity. Basically, the body goes from a state of sedation to one of over activity. There can be several symptoms that might occur after ceasing to use Ambien. The more common symptoms of Ambien withdrawal can include:
- feelings of apprehension and fearfulness
- increased feelings of nervousness and restlessness
- increased levels of anxiety
- mood changes
- rebound insomnia
The more severe symptoms that occur while withdrawing from Ambien have included:
- abdominal cramps
- dysphoria (dissatisfaction with life)
- memory loss
- panic attacks
- paranoid psychosis
What does Ambien withdrawal feel like?
Withdrawing from Ambien can feel frustrating as you are more than likely taking the medication to help you sleep. So when you stop taking Ambien, you might experience insomnia over the days that follow. Sleep patterns should return to normal afterwards. It is important to note that Ambien is only a short term treatment for insomnia. So if you have become dependent on Ambien, zolpidem withdrawal symptoms can be more severe and alternative medications may not help chronic insomniacs.
Onset of these Ambien withdrawal symptoms starts about a couple of days after you stop taking Ambien. And acute symptoms which result from stopping Ambien can last several weeks after you cease using Ambien, making withdrawal feel long and tiring.
What helps Ambien withdrawal?
If you have been taking Ambien for less than two continuous weeks, you can most likely stop Ambien quickly without severe symptoms of Ambien manifesting. However, it is important that you are monitored by a physician during Ambien withdrawal after two weeks of continuous use so that a medical professional can slowly decrease Ambien doses and taper zolpidem to minimize the effects of withdrawal symptoms. Severe cases of Ambien dependence/addiction are best served by seeking professional detox centers and support groups during withdrawal from Ambien. Three possible treatments for Ambien withdrawal include: tapering, medications, and home remedies.
1. Home remedies for Ambien withdrawal – Home remedies to help deal with symptoms of withdrawal during Ambien detox aim to treat specific symptoms related to anxiety or problems sleeping. Some people recommend trying natural herbal methods to treat sleeping disturbance such as CALMS Forte, melatonin, valerian and magnesium, which can naturally relax the body. You can also try calming teas like chamomile to help with sleeping. For other symptoms others recommend:
- cold packs for sweating
- exercise (help with endorphins)
- decreases stress
- give yourself more time for the process of sleep
2. Medications – Sometimes doctors will prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication to help treat depressive episodes that occur during Ambien withdrawal but there should be care in how these methods are used. Otherwise, over-the-counter drugs can help compensate for pain and discomfort but are recommended only in controlled quantities.
3. Tapering – The best way to detox from Ambien is to use a tapering method. It can take several days maybe weeks to wean a person off of Ambien. During this process, a psychological need for the drug might emerge. For this reason, it is important to talk to someone and make sure you have supports available to you. During this period it might be important to find natural ways of helping with the rebound insomnia.
In general, the recommended procedure for tapering off Ambien is to first reduce Ambien intake in 10mg increments until the presence of withdrawal symptoms emerge. After this, the rate of reduction should decease slowly to allocate for withdrawal symptoms. Once the symptoms have waned, further reductions can be bad. Once you have reached 10mg or less withdrawal symptoms should start stopping.
Questions about Ambien withdrawal
Do you still have questions about Ambien Withdrawal? Please share your questions and experiences with Ambien in the comments section below. And we’ll try to respond to your Ambien questions personally ASAP.
Reference Sources: Daily Med: Ambien tablets
Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection: Prescription Mentoring Program for Ambien
Medline Plus: Zolpidem
Daily Med: Zolpidem Tartrate tablets
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