If Ambien (zolpidem) is used for a prolonged period of time it can be habit-forming, promoting the development of physical dependence and unpleasant or even dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
To minimize withdrawal symptoms and give your body time to adapt to the drug’s absence, your healthcare provider can develop a tapering schedule that gradually reduces your dosage over time.
As a non-benzodiazepine or z-drug, this prescription drug has a method of action similar to benzodiazepine medications, though with a somewhat lower potential for misuse. Ambien is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a sleep aid.
Ambien Weaning & Tapering
Ambien dependence can form in as little as 4-6 weeks with routine use, and even less if the drug is taken in higher doses. Quitting Ambien cold turkey after this point can cause a wide-range of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, including difficulty sleeping.
To avoid these withdrawal symptoms, healthcare providers generally recommend that patients participate in a tapering schedule designed to wean them off the drug gradually.
While this process can be lengthy, it is much safer than giving up the drug all at once and allows your body the time it needs to adjust gradually.
Ambien Tapering Schedules
Your tapering schedule should be developed by a qualified medical professional and modified as needed depending on how your body reacts to the process.
A variety of different tapering schedules are used in different situations.
An Ambien tapering schedule may consist of:
- reducing your remaining dose of Ambien by half every 1-2 weeks
- reducing your dosage on a specific day of the week and adding an additional day at that
- reduced dosage each week that passes
- taking a reduced dose every other day with an additional reduction every 1-2 weeks
Unfortunately, because of the effects of Ambien and the underlying conditions it is often prescribed to treat, tapering-down Ambien can be a long and sometimes difficult process even for those who are highly motivated to complete it.
Ultimately, the approach that you use needs to fit your body’s reactions, balancing progress with your overall comfort and safety.
Other Recommendations For Weaning Off Ambien
Getting to sleep during Ambien tapering can be a challenge for many.
To improve your sleeping performance, healthcare experts recommend the following:
- develop a predictable sleep schedule and stick to it
- don’t eat heavy meals for at least three hours before bed
- also avoid nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants or depressants in this window
- exercise during the day
- don’t use screens (TV, phones, computers, etc.) before bed
- create a dark, calm bedroom environment
- consider using melatonin in response to insomnia, not Ambien
- practice stress and anxiety management
Ambien Withdrawal Symptoms
Ambien withdrawal can trigger significant physical and mental health effects.
Common withdrawal symptoms that may emerge when you cease Ambien use or lower your dosage can include:
- high blood pressure
- mood swings
- nausea and vomiting
- rebound insomnia
- stomach cramps
- vivid dreams or nightmares
Severe withdrawal symptoms, most commonly associated with high dose Ambien abuse and Ambien addiction, can include:
- panic attacks
- suicidal thoughts
- uncontrollable crying
Some of these symptoms, especially withdrawal seizures, can be dangerous or even life-threatening in rare cases in the absence of prompt and qualified medical attention.
Factors That Influence Ambien Withdrawal Severity
A variety of different factors can influence how severe your Ambien withdrawal experience will be and how much difficulty you may or may not encounter during tapering.
These factors include:
- how long you took Ambien, as long-term use increases your level of physical and/or psychological dependence
- your dosage, as higher doses can greatly increase dependence and accelerate its development
- whether you used extended-release Ambien, which delivers a larger dose over a longer period of time, or immediate-release Ambien
- if you used other drugs or alcohol in combination with Ambien, as combination substance use can also increase the development of dependence, increase withdrawal symptoms, and complicate Ambien addiction treatment
Always let your doctor know if you are experiencing severe or unmanageable withdrawal symptoms during tapering or detoxification.
Ambien withdrawal symptoms can also be managed through formal inpatient or outpatient medical detox programs.
These programs provide a safe, structured approach to withdrawal and feature close medical supervision, counseling, use of antidepressants and other meds (if needed), as well as other supportive interventions. In cases of Ambien dependence or addiction, detox programs can last for up to several weeks.
Detoxification is generally the first step in formal substance abuse and addiction treatment plans and should be completed before participants move on to other inpatient or outpatient treatment programs.
Ambien Abuse Treatment
Addiction treatment options like cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, and peer support groups can be effective treatment options for those struggling with Ambien abuse or addiction.
To learn more, please contact Northeast Addictions Treatment Center today.
Northeast Addition Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.