Ambien (zolpidem) is a prescription drug used for the short-term treatment of insomnia. It belongs to a group of drugs called sedative-hypnotics that suppress the central nervous system and slow down brain activity..Ambien is generally considered to be safer than certain other tranquilizers, but it can still be misused. Long-term use can lead to tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal.
If you’ve been taking large doses of Ambien for more than a few weeks, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop. These symptoms can range from feeling generally unwell to tremors, panic attacks, and vomiting..Case reports suggest that withdrawal symptoms are most common in people who stop abruptly after prolonged or heavy use...
Ambien is sometimes used at leisure (including taking larger doses than prescribed or staying awake on purpose to get the drug’s intoxicating effects).
Ambien addiction is more likely in people with a history of drug or alcohol abuse..Dependence and withdrawal are rare in people who take Ambien exactly as directed, but it can still happen.
According to the drug manufacturer’s label, withdrawal symptoms occur in approximately 1% of people who take a therapeutic dose..However, that number did not take into account the cases of people who abused Ambien.
The effects of regular consumption of Ambien are similar to alcohol intoxication and can lead to impaired judgment, speech disorders, and behavioral changes...
Ambien abuse is most common among teenagers and young adults. Occasional recreational use in social situations sometimes becomes a regular habit. The drug is sometimes used as a substitute for other substances or to counterbalance the effects of stimulants, and is sometimes snorted or injected for this purpose.
People in drug treatment programs can start treating withdrawal symptoms or focus on something that is rapidly metabolized within 24 to 72 hours and therefore doesn’t show up on most drug tests.
Signs and symptoms
Although it was previously considered rare, new research suggests that withdrawal symptoms are common in people who take the drug more often or in higher doses than prescribed...
Unfortunately, insufficient data are available on the Ambien withdrawal and further research is needed. Doctors know from reports of certain cases that Ambien withdrawal can range from mild to severe and depends on factors such as:
- How long have you been using Ambien?
- The dosage you are taking
- The forms you have taken (i.e., as a pill, swallowed or sniffed or injected)
Mild withdrawal symptoms include insomnia and restlessness..These symptoms can be bothersome and slightly interfere with your daily activities, but they are not serious.
Severe withdrawal symptoms that would prevent you from normal activities include flu-like symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, sweating, and muscle cramps...
There have been reports of people with severe anxiety and nervousness. It is also possible to experience tremors, get drowsy, have a panic attack, or even have a seizure...
Ambien withdrawal symptoms usually start within 48 hours of your last dose and should go away within a week or two...
Possible Ambien withdrawal symptoms
Discomfort and pain
Nausea or vomiting
Confusion or delirium
Keep in mind that the effects of other substances or medications you are taking can make your Ambien withdrawal symptoms worse.
Coping & Relief
If you take a regular therapeutic dose of Ambien, you are unlikely to experience withdrawal symptoms. However, you may have problems sleeping without them.
To train your body so that it can fall asleep without sleeping pills, you can reduce your dose over a period of one to two weeks. Under the guidance of your doctor, you can use a tablet cutter, which you can pick up at any pharmacy, to cut your tablet into halves and quarters.
Always consult your doctor before making changes to your medication.
If you are still having trouble sleeping after stopping Ambien, you should talk to your doctor about melatonin as an alternative. Melatonin is a natural chemical produced in the brain that helps regulate your sleep cycles. As you get older, your brain doesn’t produce as much melatonin as it used to. Taking a melatonin supplement before bed can help.
There are also other herbal remedies that can help you fall asleep, such as valerian root and chamomile tea...
If you experience severe symptoms of Ambien withdrawal, your doctor or the doctor on the inpatient program may recommend short-term use of a sedative. Common sedatives prescribed to help with Ambien withdrawal include:
- Antipsychotics such as Seroquel (quetiapine)
- Anticonvulsants such as Neurontin (gabapentin)
Talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medication. If you are concerned about withdrawal, your doctor can help you safely reduce your dose.
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, speak to your doctor right away. Ambien can potentially be harmful to a developing fetus...
If you regularly take a higher than normal dose of Ambien, you may be at an increased risk of severe withdrawal symptoms. You should speak to your doctor and not self-medicate with other drugs or alcohol.
Recovery from Ambien disorder can be difficult. If you are having trouble quitting or trying to quit more than one substance, it is important to seek help. This help can be medical, psychological or social.
Outpatient treatment comes in many forms. You can choose to start with your regular doctor or a psychiatrist who can help with medically assisted detox.
You can also opt for a therapist for therapy. Psychotherapy can help you identify triggers that motivate your substance use and teach you the skills to deal with these situations.
Group therapy sessions are offered in hospitals and addiction treatment centers. 12-tier meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are held daily in cities across the country.
If you need more support than outpatient treatments or 12-step programs can provide, some time should be spent in an inpatient treatment facility.
The best time to speak with your prescribing doctor is when you are ready to stop taking Ambien. Your doctor can advise you on the best way to quit and help you develop a plan to manage potential withdrawal symptoms.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Agency (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-662-4357 Information about support and treatment facilities in your area.
Additional mental health resources can be found in our National Helpline Database.
Use online searchable Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous directories to find a 12-step meeting near you.
A word from Verywell
Ambien Use Disorder is a potentially serious problem. If you have taken Ambien other than prescribed, or are concerned about the withdrawal symptoms from Ambien, do not hesitate to ask for help.