ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Ambien (zolpidem) is prescribed to treat short-term insomnia, it is not meant to be used over an extended period. What happens when you want to quit? This article reviews how to get off Ambien safely.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- What Happens To Your Brain?
- What Happens To Your Body?
- Effects of Withdrawal
- Can You Detox On Your Own?
- Where To Detox?
- Medications That Can Help
- Treating Common Symptoms
- Do You Have Questions?
What Happens To Your Brain?
Is important to know first, that Ambien is the brand name for zolpidem, a non-benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotic, and central nervous system depressant that is mainly prescribed as a sleep aid. This means that it slows your brain activity.
How? Ambien increases the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical that occurs naturally in the brain and sends messages between cells through neurotransmitters. GABA slows down brain processes.
Consequently, Ambien is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance by federal regulation. In fact, if you are taking Ambien you need to aware of the risk of physical dependence. Physical dependence is a state of adaptation that manifests as a specific withdrawal syndrome when you:
- Quit the drug abruptly.
- Experience rapid dose reduction.
- Have a decreased blood level of the drug.
- Are administered a drug antagonist.
Ambien withdrawal affects each person differently depending on the dosage and how long you have been taking Ambien. For those who have developed a strong dependence on Ambien, a longer withdrawal period is expected. They will also experience the more uncomfortable or intense symptoms of withdrawal.
Additionally, former Ambien users have reported suffering Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) after Ambien use, which is a set of persistent symptoms that occur right after you stop taking Ambien and persist for several weeks to months after your last dose of Ambien. Insomnia, nightmares, depression and anxiety are typical of Ambien PAWS symptoms. Psychological effects of addiction and dependence may also still be present long after you are no longer taking Ambien.
What Happens To Your Body?
The main side effects of taking Ambien are:
- Drunken behavior without odor of alcohol.
- Hangover feeling or daytime sleepiness.
- Impaired memory of events.
- Slurred speech.
So, be very careful if you are taking Ambien… If you have any of these symptoms seek for medical help right away. Other long-term effects that you may felt include:
- Abdominal pain.
- Dry mouth.
- Loss of appetite.
- Loss of energy.
- Loss of memory.
- Mood swings.
- Problems with coordination.
Ambien also depresses the respiratory system, as we said above, and if the underlying cause of insomnia is sleep apnea, this can reduce the drive to breathe, and this is very dangerous.
Effects of Withdrawal
While Ambien detox is considered safer than some other types of sedative withdrawal, there does exist a small chance of some serious side effects, including seizure. Even in the absence of seizure activity, Ambien withdrawal is never easy. Some people claim that some effects they what they feel resembles a hangover from a night of heavy drinking.
During Ambien withdrawal, next day effects include:
- Gastrointestinal disorders such as nausea.
- Memory loss.
- Persistent drowsiness.
In addition, there can be sleepwalking and a strange phenomenon known as nocturnal feeding syndrome (or sleep) that can occur, especially in the context of multiple doses.If you take for longer than 7 to 14 days, Ambien can provoke insomnia that is actually worse than the insomnia the drug was intended to treat in first place.
How long does it take to withdraw from Ambien? Generally, acute symptoms resolve within a week, however, some symptoms can persist for weeks to months. In fact, many people attempt to detox and withdraw from Ambien over a period of weeks and months. Most cases of long -term use result in withdrawal that is quite lengthy.
If you have been using Ambien for more than 6 weeks, or so, plan for at least a week of detoxification. Other cases may require more time.
Within a week or so, the acute detox period usually resolves. It is possible that cravings persist, but they will diminish with time, until disappearing completely. However, you may still have difficulties with insomnia in the weeks or months after you quit. So, be sure to talk with your doctor about alternative treatment options.
Withdrawal is different for everyone. The main factors that will influence how long it takes to withdraw include your:
- Age, weight, gender, general health.
- Level of drug dependence.
- Medical history.
- Use patterns including dosage, frequency, and total time using.
The most acute withdrawal symptoms of Ambien withdrawal generally occur within the first 3-5 days, but symptoms of psychological withdrawal can persist for up to two weeks. In some rare cases, you may experience insomnia, cravings, panic attacks and other side effects for months after discontinuing the use of Ambien.
Here’s a general guideline for what to expect:
Days 1-2 after last use: The first 4-8 hours after the last dose, you may begin to notice mild withdrawal symptoms. hour. 24-48 hours after the last dose, you begin to fully experience withdrawal symptoms (such as difficulty sleeping, craving, anxiety, tremor, heart, palpitations, delirium and, sometimes, seizures or psychosis).
Days 3-5: During this time, symptoms often reach their peak. However, not everyone will experience withdrawal symptoms, nor will everyone experience the same symptoms. A period of 1-2 weeks is average, but several factors can affect how long a person experiences Ambien withdrawal symptoms. These include:
- How long the person took Ambien? Because when takes it as prescribed for a short period of time, the person is less likely to experience withdrawal symptoms, and those symptoms will not be acute or severe.
- How high the Ambien dose was? If a person takes more than prescribed, is more likely to develop a tolerance to the medication, which means more Ambien is needed to feel “normal,” and can lead to worse physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.
- What Ambien version was taken? Extended-release medications offer a higher dose of the drug; this means that medication is slowly released into the system when taken usually. The organism of the people who abuse this medication bypass the chemicals that permit the slow liberation effect, this can lead to much more intense withdrawal symptoms, because they use higher doses to have the same effect.
- Was the person took other drugs in addition to Ambien? Other medications, alcohol, or illegal drugs can enhance the effects of Ambien, increasing the potential “high.” Withdrawal symptoms are likely to be compounded if the person ceases all drug use at once.
Ambien may be relatively less addictive than benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotics, but it still carries a risk of dependence and compulsive misuse. Research has shown that Ambien use and abuse are on the rise in the United States and is more common in people who have a history of abusing other drugs, especially alcohol.
One of the most common risks of Ambien is the combination with other drugs, also known as polysubstance use. Polysubstance use occurs when a person consumes more than one drug or alcohol at the same time. Central nervous system depressants should not be combined with any medication or substance that causes drowsiness, including prescription pain meds, cold and allergy medications, or alcohol. If combined, they can slow both the heart and respiration, which can lead to death.
Can You Detox Yourself?
For some people, withdrawal symptoms are unbearable. For others, detox resolves without complications. In any case is always important consider an extra help, because Ambien detox can be related with adverse and serious side effects. This is why any Ambien detox should always require medical supervision as in inpatient or outpatient programs.
Your doctor can help you first taper down your doses of Ambien over the period of a few weeks, or more and set up an alternative plan for dealing with sleeping problems. Additionally, medical supervision helps identify and treat related problems or new problems as they occur.
Where To Detox?
Being able to quit Ambien requires treating the physical and psychological hold the drug has over the user. This is why a medical detox clinic is the safest place to remove Ambien from your system. Most inpatient rehabs offer detox as a service. However, some treatment centers are better equipped than others.
The structure of inpatient treatment also helps people to re-establish healthy sleeping habits since bedtime and waking up are consistent on a day-to-day basis. Is centered on a strict routine which include daily activities are scheduled and often include counseling, free time, support groups and other activities. However, the best Ambien detox center is the one where your needs are met and you feel welcomed.
Medications That Can Help
There are no FDA approved medications to treat addiction to prescription sedatives; lowering the dose over time must be done with the help of a health care provider. However, sometimes a traditional taper isn´t the best course, though. In this case, doctors may choose to substitute one benzo for another.
Gabapentin has been used efficiently to assist or treat alcohol withdrawal, management of cocaine dependence as well as benzodiazepine dependence/detoxification, and has shown positive results treating Ambien dependence problems. Gabapentin lacks short backs of benzodiazepines in treatment of any drug dependence.
Quetiapine is a second-generation antipsychotic medication with known sedating effects. While zolpidem is a relatively safe drug compared to conventional hypnotics, people with substance abuse histories may be at risk for abuse. In cases of zolpidem abuse or dependence, the use of another sedating agent with lower abuse potential should be considered.
Some over-the-counter medicines can help you feel better during withdrawal, as well. Two types of meds relieve diarrhea in different ways:
- Bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol) balances out how fluid moves through your digestive tract.
- Loperamide (Imodium) slows the movement of food through your intestines, which lets your body absorb more liquid.
Treating Common Symptoms
Below you will find some easy treatment options for common symptoms that you may have during Ambien detox. If any of these symptoms persist, you have to seek for medical attention.
What To Do For Headaches?
Some headaches are easily treated with over-the-counter medications, including:
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others).
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others).
Alternative therapies aimed at stress reduction might help in some cases. They include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Massage therapy.
What To Do For Diarrhea?
Most cases of diarrhea clear on their own within a couple of days without treatment. Eat bland, low-fiber foods until you feel better. Doctors often suggest the BRAT diet:
- Rice (white).
Other good choices include:
- Peanut butter.
- Skinless chicken or turkey.
Avoid foods that can make diarrhea or gas worse, like:
- Fatty or fried foods.
- Raw fruits and vegetables.
- Spicy foods.
- Caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and soda.
Drink clear liquids during the day to stay hydrated. Water is a good way to replace fluids, but it doesn’t contain the salts and electrolytes (minerals such as sodium and potassium) you need to maintain the electric currents that keep your heart beating. You can help maintain your electrolyte levels by drinking fruit juices for potassium or eating soups for sodium. Certain fruit juices, such as apple juice, might make diarrhea worse.
What To Do For Muscle Pain?
Muscle aches often respond well to home treatment. Some measures you can take to relieve muscle discomfort from injuries and overuse include:
- Resting the area of the body where you are experiencing aches and pains.
- Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Advil).
- Applying ice to the affected area to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Other measures that may provide relief from muscle pain include:
- Avoiding high-impact activities until after the muscle pain goes away.
- Avoiding weight-lifting sessions until the muscle pain is resolved.
- Doing stress-relieving activities and exercises such as yoga and meditation to relieve tension.
- Gently stretching the muscles.
- Giving yourself time to rest.
Do You Have Questions?
Do you still have questions about detox from Ambien? Please ask your questions in the comments section below and we will get to you promptly and personally. If we do not know the answer, we will contact the specialist who has it.
Reference Sources: FDA: Ambien
FDA: Questions and answers: Risk of next-morning impairment after use of insomnia drugs; FDA requires lower recommended doses for certain drugs containing zolpidem
NCBI: A case of zolpidem dependence successfully detoxified with gabapentin
NCBI: Prescription sedative misuse and abuse
NCBI: Using medication: What can help when trying to stop taking sleeping pills and sedatives?
NCBI: Quetiapine treatment of zolpidem dependence
NCBI: Zolpidem dependence, abuse and withdrawal: A case report
NIDA: Commonly abused drug charts
SAMHSA: Emergency department visits for adverse reactions involving the insomnia medication zolpidem
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.