Tolerance to Ambien

Tolerance to Ambien can occur after only 4 weeks of prescribed use. Learn more about Ambien tolerance and its connection to dependence and addiction here.

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Does Ambien simply not work for you anymore? Ambien used for anxiety or sleep disorders is typically NOT prescribed for more than 4 weeks at a time.  Are you concerned that you might be developing a tolerance to Ambien? How long to be dependent on Ambien occurs in as little as a couple of weeks after daily dosing. So if you are worried your increasing tolerance to Ambien may become an Ambien addiction, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we’ll explore Ambien tolerance, as well as its relationship to Ambien dependence and addiction. We’ll also talk about what you can do about your tolerance to Ambien. Finally, we invite your questions about tolerance to Ambien at the end.

Developing tolerance to Ambien

Ambien (zolpidem) tolerance occurs when you’ve taken this sleeping aid in high doses or for extended periods of time.  Building a tolerance means that you need higher or more frequent doses of Ambien to achieve the same therapeutic effect.  In other words, tolerance starts to affect how well and how long Ambien lasts.  But how’s tolerance related to addiction?

While physical dependence on the drug zolpidem which is found in Ambien is clinically different from Ambien addiction, both conditions are possible when you take Ambien for long periods of time. Ambien dependence simply means you won’t be able to stop taking Ambien abruptly without withdrawal symptoms. However, Ambien addiction includes psychological symptoms which are not necessarily present when you become Ambien-tolerant. Furthermore, Ambien addiction is more likely if you’re not taking it as directed, by taking large amounts or snorting the medication.

If you need help stopping Ambien, check out our detailed GUIDE on sleeping pills withdrawal and detox help to get better equipped with knowledge about the withdrawal, detox, and quitting process under medical supervision.

Ambien tolerance symptoms

Ambien tolerance has two main symptoms:

1. Feeling like Ambien isn’t working as well as it used to

2. Needing to take higher than normal doses of Ambien to get to sleep

Still, these symptoms don’t necessarily indicate an addiction to Ambien. They’re simply signs that your body is used to functioning with Ambien in your system, and so you’re no longer responding as well as you used to.

Ambien tolerance: How long?

Ambien is highly addictive, so zolpidem is usually not prescribed for periods of longer than 4 weeks. In fact, for most people, Ambien is only prescribed for a week or so. This is because it’s possible to develop a tolerance (or dependence) on Ambien after only 4 weeks – the exact amount of time depends on the individual. The longer you’ve taken Ambien and the higher the dose, the more likely you are to develop an Ambien tolerance.

High tolerance to Ambien

Doctors only recommend 10 mg daily of Ambien or 12.5 mg of Ambien CR. Because Ambien is only intended to be used for short periods of time, anything higher than this dose is considered “high.” If you have chronic difficulties with insomnia, your doctor may have to raise your dose over time, or have you switch to a different sleep medication that is more effective.

How to lower tolerance to Ambien

If you want to lower your Ambien tolerance because it’s no longer working for you, talk to your doctor. They may recommend that you stop taking Ambien for a month or two so that your body adjusts – and may be able to recommend alternative drugs to help you sleep in the meantime. There is no way to lower your Ambien tolerance other than tapering your dose and/or taking a break from the drug for a period of time.

Building up tolerance to Ambien questions

Do you still have questions about Ambien tolerance? Please share your questions and experiences with Ambien in the comments below.

Reference Sources: DailyMed: Ambien
NCBI: Intractable nausea caused by zolpidem withdrawal

FDA Medication Guide: Ambien Tablets
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.


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  1. I took ambien 10 mg for 10 yrs off and on and now does not help me sleep whatsoever BUT I have a rare nerve disorder called trigeminal neralgia atypical and cannot tolerate the meds recommended​ for this horrible condition…. I recently realized that 10 mg of ambien actually helps the nerve pain way better than any narcotics and no unwanted side effects. I have read a few other blogs from people that have experienced the same thing. Can anyone tell me what ingredient in this medication could be helping? I had a pain mngmt Dr that I was honest with actually call my PCP and tell her to stop giving it to me since I was not using it for sleep! Seriously I would rather take that than oxy or morphine that doesn’t work as well and creates other issues. Plus I never gave him permission to talk to her is that legal according to HIPPA??

    1. Hi Aubrey. Ambien is a brand name for Zolpidem used for treating insomnia. It is a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic of the imidazopyridine class. Each Ambien tablet has the following inactive ingredients: hydroxypropyl methylcellulose,lactose, magnesium stearate, micro-crystalline cellulose, polyethylene glycol, sodium starch, glycolate, and titanium dioxide. You may find more information here:

  2. In 2007 I had an elbow operation that went horribly wrong. My elbow swelled up bigger than a football. The pain was incrediable, I had been in construction my whole life an could take a punch but this was different. I stopped eating,Istopped sleeping, My whole life seemed to just stop. I got prescribed ambian so that I could sleep. The stuff worked good for quite some time. In June of this year Ill take a cake for 20 years of sobriety. Sadly thou, I dont feel sober with this ambian thing hanging over my head. I told my doctor several months ago that I wanted to get off of the ambian. He told me good luck. If I dont take it, I dont sleep. I went 17 days last year without it, I dont remember sleeping but I guess I did. It was a rough 2 weeks. When the ambian kicks in I have no memory of cooking, eating, generally making a big mess in in the kitchen. Sleep walking. I need help but I dont know what to do. P. S. I dont like to drive at night and thats a good thing. Ive finally weened myself down to 5mg s a night , any suggestions would be welcomed. Charles

    1. Hi Charles. It seems to me that you’re doing great. If you experience any problems, feel free to call the helpline listed on the website to speak with a trusted treatment consultant.

  3. What happens if you continue taking the mediacation after 6 weeks? I’ve been taking it somewhat intermittently for years!!! I can’t sleep without it even though I know it’s less effective. i don’t want permanent brain damage, but I need to sleep… Other medications haven’t been as effective for me.

  4. Sadly enough I love Ambien as it let’s me escape to a blissful place and I don’t have to be awake in my sad fucked up life.

  5. I have beenon ambien for a number of years. Seems to hit fast once taken. I am weaning myself off of it by cutting the 10mg tablets in half and then will cut them into quarters. I hope to get off them. I have zero memory of what i do or have done once they kick in. Not good. Not sleeping as much but that is preferable to having no memory.

  6. I hit tolerance to Ambien after 17 years, never abused it or took more than I was supposed to. The only thing that happened was I was changed from clonazapam to Ativan. With in two weeks Ambien stopped working and over a year later still doesn’t work. I blame it on the Ativan! To mark me as an addict is infuriating.

  7. I usually take zolpedium once or twice a week with no proplem.I resent a witches from generic to name brand ambien.the results can be spuratic depending on wich nt I take it.if my body has built up a tolerance it has been slow.or is it possible the name brand not being prescribed as much has had too long of a self life and weekend?
    I am on vacation , when I return home tonight I will try a generic zolpedium wich I have left wich has always worked for me.
    I gue this should prove one way or the other.
    Of course I will also see my doctor this week.

  8. Hello so serene. Thanks for your honest opinion. Tolerance DOES NOT EQUAL addiction. However, Ambien should not be used for more than six (6) weeks at a time. While we do not argue with you that there are therapeutic applications for Ambien, we are of the opinion that long term use of Ambien (and prescriptions for Ambien) would best be curbed in favor of lifestyle changes in order to induce sleep. Physical dependence on Ambien (a strong hypnotic) for years on end is not a “cure” for insomnia.

  9. “Ambien is HIGHLY ADDICTIVE” – (emphasis mine) – at least so proclaims this blog; as well as seeming to equate tolerance to a substance, completely & wholly with addiction to same said substance. If this was so, many, many people would be in rehab for Benadryl/(Diphenhydramine HCl) addiction. It takes most people very little time before those two Benadryl they’ve been taking to help them sleep just simply don’t have much, if any effect on them. And yet, Diphenhydramine is in no way addictive. In fact, it is not only one of the safest medications in the tool chest of we humans, it is also one of the most versatile: not only is it arguably the most powerful antihistamine known, as well as the previously mentioned and incredibly safe helper of mild-moderate insomniacs; it is also used in homes & hospitals across the world for nausea & vomiting. It is even given I.V. quite regularly & quite effectively.

    There are a myriad of other non-controlled drugs where a tolerance is built up extremely rapidly in patients. One of the most widely used, especially for sleep, is Seroquel. It’s efficacy in putting people to sleep is matched only by how quickly it goes from knocking someone on their ass to doing absolutely nothing at all.
    Yes, there are many drugs where tolerance and addiction are often found side-by-side; but this is in no way universal. If someone is addicted to something, it’s almost sure that that person also has a high tolerance for that substance they’re addicted to, but the REVERSE does NOT hold true. A high tolerance does not equal addiction. This is an important distinction, & I think it’s important to be able to discuss medications, legal and illegal substances, and the scourge of addiction in ways that are honest, reasonable, & fact based instead of fear based. I think we’ve had enough bullshit shoved down our gullets for dozens of lifetimes. Can we not “Reefer Madness” up every thing

    Schedule IV: Schedule IV drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence.
    – Source: U.S. DEPARTMENT of JUSTICE website

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