How to Stop Taking Ambien

The safest way to stop Ambien is by gradually reducing (tapering) dose. Experts suggest a taper schedule of gradual reduction and then withholding an Ambien dose every other day or every third day. Learn more about the principles and protocol behind Ambien cessation here.

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Reviewed by: Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

ARTICLE SUMMARY: The best way to stop taking AMBIEN is by slowly reducing the daily dose under the supervision of a medical professional. Additionally, medical detox can help minimize withdrawal symptoms.


What Happens When You Stop

Are you considering quitting Ambien (zolpidem)?

Medications like Ambien should be used only for short-term treatment of insomnia (SAMHSA Brief from 2014). A sedative-hypnotic drug, Ambien should really only be prescribed for a few weeks, or less. In fact, the FDA approved Ambien drug label states that it has been shown to be clinicially effective for only 35 days of consecutive use.  It has addictive potential…even in people who have never encountered substance use problems in the past.

Furthermore, when you take Ambien over a period of time, your body becomes accustomed to having the medication in your system. So, when you stop taking Ambien abruptly, your body is unable to handle the change, and you experience withdrawal symptoms. This can occur even when you aren’t addicted to Ambien.

Addiction Liability

It can be difficult to stop taking Ambien. In fact, getting addicted to Ambien can be one side effect of long-term use. Does it always happen?  Not necessarily. This 2011 study published in the medical journal, Behavioral Pharmacology, found that Ambien may possess moderate abuse potential that limits its clinical utility.

Even though the Drug Enforcement Administration enforces Ambien as a scheduled IV drug (it officially has a low addictive potentialaccording to the Controlled Substances Act), there are many testimonial that prove otherwise. For instance, a 2007 study published in British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology showed that the nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic zolpidem has a higher abuse potential than previously documented.

But even if you aren’t addicted, you can experience physical side effects when you remove the medication from your system. This is because physical dependence and developing tolerance to Ambien occur relatively quickly.

Who Has Trouble with Ambien?

Yu are not alone in the vicious cycle of needing a sleep aid to get to sleep. In fact, the data in National Survey on Drug Use and Health of 2016 showed that 497,000 people aged 12 or older were using sedatives (including Ambien) incorrectly in the past year. The numbers break down by demographic into:

  • 23,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17.
  • 50,000 young adults aged 18 to 25.
  • 425,000 adults aged 26 or older.

Moreover, 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that about 330,000 people aged 12 or older were nonmedical users of sedatives in 2014. Further, the 2013 DAWN Report on Emergency Department Visits for Adverse Reactions Involving the Insomnia Medication Zolpidem showed that the number of zolpidem-related ED visits increased 220% from from over 6,000 visits in 2005 to almost 20,000 visits in 2010.

So, be careful when using Ambien.

Can I Just Stop?

No. Most people can’t just stop taking Ambien.

It’s not a matter of lacking willpower. Taking Ambien creates physical dependence on zolpidem over time. Dependence on Ambien symptoms can include needing to take Ambien every day, needing to take more Ambien to get to sleep, as well as withdrawal symptoms when you reduce or stop dosing with zolpidem.

For most folks who’ve taken Ambien for three weeks or more, it’s common to experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to just quit. Some withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant. For example, rebound insomnia can keep you up for days at a time. Others, such as seizures, can be dangerous.


It may take less than a month to develop a dependence on Ambien. Withdrawal effects can be serious enough to require hospitalization, and can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Brain fog
  • Confusion
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Fearfulness
  • Hallucinations
  • Nightmares
  • Memory loss
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia and panic attacts
  • Psychosis
  • Sleep disorders
  • Shaking
  • Vomiting

Withdrawal effects may be worse if you’ve taken Ambien long-term or at high doses (20mg or more) to help you sleep at night. Also, check out our visual chart that can help you learn the exact time when some of the withdrawal symptoms occur.

Cold Turkey

Can you quit Ambien cold turkey? In some cases, it may be appropriate. However, it can actually be dangerous to stop taking Ambien suddenly. Ask a doctor for guidance any time you’re planning to quit Ambien. Tapering protocols can be adjusted for your individual case.

Generally, doctors recommend gradually tapering your dose over weeks or even months, depending on how much zolipdem you’ve been taking at night. Stopping suddenly actually makes it harder to quit, due to the potential severity of withdrawal effects, including induced seizures. Many people will simply start taking Ambien again to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

There are reasons to quit Ambien cold-turkey, of course. If you’ve taken Ambien long-term and developed an addiction to Ambien, you may be incapable of exercising the control to slowly taper your dose. You might also have to quit suddenly due to a drug sensitivity or reaction.

Consult a medical professional anytime you want to quit taking Ambien. It is a psychoactive drug that requires medical supervision during tapering.

Medical Detox

In some cases, you may want to stop taking Ambien under 24-7 medical supervision. In these cases, medical detox clinics provide treatments that deal with withdrawal symptoms, as well as offer emotional and psychological support. Also, you will be under round-the-clock medical care, very helpful in managing cases of psychosis.

What can you expect during medical detox?

Step 1: Assessment.

Completion of paperwork is the first thing that you will do in detox. You may be asked to present insurance or payment documentation. Expect about an hour-long discussion during which you may be asked to give urine or blood sample for a drug test. This first assessment help detox staff plan the services during your stay.

Step 2: Clinical Assessment.

During the clinical assessment, you will consult with detox supervisors. They will take your medical history, family history, conduct a physical exam, and complete an evaluation. Also, nurses will request prescriptions for medications from supervising physicians at this time. This way, the clinic begins to address withdrawal symptoms immediately.

Step 3: Tapering. 

Tapering protocols dictate the time period for reducing your doses. These schedules are created on doctor’s orders. Note that every case of tapering requires individual monitoring. This is beacuse we all react differently to psychoactive drugs…and their removal from the system.

Step 4: Transition.

Transition to further treatment is the last step of medical detox. If needed, longer term addiction treatment will help you learn how to manage life without Ambien, as well as, how to protect yourself from a relapse. Keep in mind that no one can make you enroll into a treatment. The decision is yours alone.

The Safe Way to Stop

The safest way to stop taking Ambien is by consulting a doctor. A doctor’s instructions will make the process easier and more effective. You can plan for rebound symptoms of insomnia, schedule a tapering calendar, and set up a plan for how to manage other symptoms. Speaking to a counselor or mental health professional can also help you cope with possible Ambien addiction, if psychological dependence is keeping you from quitting.

It’s easiest to quit Ambien and stay off it if you reduce your dose a small amount at a time. To discontinue hypnotic medications like Ambien, experts suggest a taper schedule of withholding a dose every other day or every third day. However, doctor can help you develop a dosing schedule suitable for your particular needs.

If you suspect that you or someone close to you has developed dependence or addiction to Ambien, seek medical help to quit! Detox and withdrawal can be dangerous and lead to relapse if you try to quit cold turkey and on your own. Also, learn more about the addiction treatment process and available options for rehab in our Sleeping Pills Addiction Treatment Programs and Help GUIDE for safe and successful quitting.


Tapering is the medical protocol for gradual reduction of your daily medication dose over a period of several weeks. The tapering process lasts until the user has stopped taking the medication completely. Because Ambien acts similar in receptor binding and brain activity changes as benzodiazepines, a standard benzodiazepine tapering protocol is helpful in Ambien reduction doses.

According to PubMed Health the best way to stop taking sleeping pills or sedatives is to gradually reduce the dose with the guidance of a doctor.

The tapering practice should be individualized and adjust for the needs of the patient. Most of the schedules depends from the drug dependency level and your individual health conditions. Generally, experts suggest a gradual dose reduction until 5mg zolpidem is achieved, and then withholding a dose every other day, or every third day.

What’s Next?

If you suspect that your use of Ambien is deeper than you thought, you may need professional help. Ambien can provoke feelings of extreme well-being – known as euphoria – in some users. So, if you’re using Ambien to get high…you may need to take a look at why. Further, some people lose control over their Ambien use over time.

Please don’t worry!

Ambien drug problems are relatively common. You are not alone. Here are our top three recommendations for what to do if you suspect you have developed a real problem.

STEP 1: Stop living in denial. The first step is basic. You’ll need to get out of denial and admit you have a substance use problems. The sooner you accept the problem, the better. Earlier resolution of addiction issues can result in long-term abstinence and a drug-free life.

STEP 2: Recognize your motivation for change. Let’s get one thing straight: an Ambien problem doesn’t happen overnight. So, you will need to identify the reasons that can help you address the deeper issues. It’s not going to be easy. So, write down why you want to quit, print them out, hang them on your wall, but make sure that those reasons are the driving force that will turn your life around.

STEP 3: Ask for help. Addiction is a disease, so don’t waste your time trying to solve the problem on your own. Instead, ask for help from addiction professionals such as:

  • Addiction rehab facilities
  • Licensed clinical social workers
  • Medical detox clinics
  • Medical doctors
  • Psychologists and/or psychiatrists

When to Call a Professional

You want to stop taking Ambien? ALWAYS consult with your doctor. S/he know your medical history, and this is the person that prescribed the medication at first place. This way, you can plan an indvidualized tapering protocol together with medical supervision..

Don’t forget that Ambien is addictive, so call a medical help anytime you think that you may have a problem.

Do I Have a Problem?

Still asking yourself whether you have a problem with Ambien?

The answer is: you probably do, if you’re asking the question.

However, as we said before, you need to be honest with your self. Then, check out the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) that lists 11 criteria for the diagnosis of behaviors that can help you diagnose your addiction. The main criteria that are clinical signs of addiction include:

  1. Using Ambien in larger amounts or longer than intended.
  2. Wanting to reduce the dose or stop using… but failing.
  3. Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, or recovering from Ambien.
  4. Experiencing cravings and an uncontrollable urge to use the drug.
  5. Failing to perform normally at work, home, or at school due to drug use.
  6. Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in everyday life.
  7. Giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities because of Ambien.
  8. Using Ambien again and again, despite being aware of harmful risks and side effects.
  9. Continuing to use despite the risk of developing health problems or worsen physical or physiological condition.
  10. Needing more drug to get the desired effect (tolerance).
  11. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms upon lowered dose or cessation (dependence).

If you fall into one or more of these criteria, consult with an addiction professional to diagnose the severity of a possible addiction and to plan for treatment options.

Is Rehab for Me?

If you’re reall having trouble with Ambien, you may need to press the “RESTART” button. A stay at rehab can help you do this. The trained staff will help you recognize the main reasons why you have developed a drug problem. Even more valuable… the most valued thing is that it will help you learn how to live an Ambien-free life.

When considering rehab, you have two main options available to you: inpatient or outpatient programs. The main difference between the two is live-in or live-out situations.

Inpatient (residential) rehab program offers you constant medical care because you will live at the facility. The services included are:

  • Individual therapy sessions
  • Group therapy sessions
  • Community support

Outpatient rehabs offer almost the same services, but patients come and go for a few hours, several days per week. You can live at home. During the time in the program, a counselor leads the therapy sessions and then helps you plan strategies and behavior changes over time. This type of rehab program is more flexible because it allows you to keep up with your daily responsibilities.

Your Questions Are Welcomed

Still have questions about how to stop taking Ambien? Please leave your questions, comments or experiences about withdrawal here. We welcome all feedback and will do our best to respond to you with a personal and prompt reply.

Reference Sources: State of California Department of Health Care Services: An Overview of Treatment Approaches to Insomnia
Federal Bureau of Prisons: Detoxification of Chemically Dependent Inmates
PubMed: Detoxification from high-dose zolpidem using diazepam
PubMed: Intractable nausea caused by zolpidem withdrawal: a case report.
DEA: Drug Information
MedLine Plus: Zolpidem
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
Medical Reviewers
Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS serves as the Chief Medical Officer of the Texas Healt...

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a licensed medical professional.

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