Ambien Withdrawal and Detox
There are certain consequences of abusing a drug like Ambien. Undesirable withdrawal symptoms are just some of them. Withdrawal symptoms can turn out to be very serious if you choose to discontinue using Ambien without professional care. These symptoms can serve as deterrents to quitting and keep you hooked on the drug as a result. If you choose to continue abusing Ambien to escape withdrawal, you will be putting yourself at greater risk.
Treatment that can safely assist you through withdrawal is available and you can be confident there is a sure route to recovery from your dependence on Ambien. If you or a loved one are struggling to fight off withdrawal symptoms and quit Ambien, you can get help. A medically supported detox will ensure you safely undergo the worst of withdrawal. Treatment involves the administration of prescription medications and guided therapy.
Becoming addicted to Ambien is easy. Abusing the drug for recreational purposes is a much more straightforward route to addiction, but you may also become accidentally addicted after being prescribed Ambien for a mild to acute case of insomnia.
However, addiction to Ambien shouldn’t represent an impossible situation. With help from the right professionals, you can put your days of dependency on this drug firmly in the past. If you’re confused as a result of your abuse and don’t know which way to turn, please call a confidential addiction helpline today, so you can be guided through the best steps to take next.
It is paramount that you understand what it means to abuse Ambien, as well as the consequences of not fighting your addiction (despite the challenges of withdrawal), and how you can kick your habit if you are mentally prepared to do so. Read on to learn more about Ambien withdrawal and detox, so you can make an informed choice about your recovery.
Ambien withdrawal: What is it?
Withdrawal refers to a phase where an onset of symptoms is triggered when you choose to stay off Ambien after protracted abuse. These symptoms are always uncomfortable and will discourage you from maintaining abstinence.
Ambien (which is the brand name for the generic drug, Zolpidem) is a central nervous system sedative, which acts in a similar way to benzodiazepines, but is less powerful. The drug is mainly used to induce and maintain sleep (in those having trouble sleeping). If you use the drug continually, you’ll eventually develop dependence. This will result in withdrawal symptoms when you decide to quit or cut back on your dose.
Ambien is considered to have less addictive properties than benzodiazepines, but it is habit-forming nonetheless and can be dangerous. The knowledge that Ambien is less addictive than benzodiazepines make people use the drug with a considerable lack of caution, which leads to unexpected withdrawal symptoms.
While Ambien may not be as powerfully addictive as other sedatives, withdrawal from the drug is very real. You’ll most likely experience a harsh rebound of the issues Ambien is prescribed to treat, such as severe insomnia. There are also psychological effects (as well as physical ones) associated with Ambien withdrawal.
Your withdrawal symptoms can be further compounded if you have abused Ambien along with other sedatives or stimulants such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, cocaine, or amphetamines.
If you choose to quit without medical care, you will be putting yourself at significant risk, as seizures are also possible during withdrawal. Your best course of action when you want to quit abusing Ambien is to seek medical assistance.
Call our admissions line 24 hours a day to get help.
What causes Ambien withdrawal?
Withdrawal from Ambien occurs as a result of your dependence on the drug. Ambien has a unique way of affecting the brain that makes your body reliant on it after prolonged usage. Once your brain has experienced the calming effects of Ambien, the urge to recreate the drug’s pleasurable effects could lead to dependency. You’ll keep taking the drug to sleep like a normal person and in order to de-stress. Recreational users repeatedly use the drug for the euphoric feelings they enjoy whenever they take it.
Ambien travels to the brain and increases the effects of a neurochemical known as gamma-Amino butyric acid (GABA), which is chiefly responsible for inhibiting certain nerve functions. This action mechanism is similar to that of benzodiazepines, but rather than binding to GABA receptors in the spine, Ambien binds to those in the brain. Its action produces more sedative and hypnotic feelings than anxiolytic (anxiety reduction), anticonvulsant, and myorelaxant (muscle relaxation) effects.
When your brain gets used to this abnormally increased level of GABA activity, it begins to rely on Ambien, because it cannot initiate this on its own.
You will be further at risk of addiction when your brain begins to become tolerant to Ambien. When dependence is initiated, your brain will begin to ask for more of the drug, as it struggles between being stable and being functional. The more you take Ambien, the higher the odds of facing more intense withdrawal symptoms when you choose to stay off the drug or reduce your normal dose.
Withdrawal cannot be prevented once you’ve grown dependent on Ambien. Your body will send out distress signals when it is cut off from a support system it has grown to recognise (which happens to be Ambien in this case). Whether you choose to recover from your substance dependence and curtail your intake, or you temporarily lose access to the drug, withdrawal will take hold.
Phases of Ambien withdrawal
Withdrawal from Ambien is often similar to that of most benzodiazepines. Though its withdrawal is relatively less life-threatening, complications can occur that may increase the severity of symptoms and even make them fatal. This is particularly the case if you choose to go through withdrawal without medical assistance.
Ambien has a short half-life, which means it leaves the body quicker than most sedatives, especially benzodiazepines.
Ambien withdrawal comes in two major phases. They include the acute phase of withdrawal, and the protracted phase. Withdrawal symptoms manifest in different ways and differing levels of intensity, depending on how you have abused the drug, as well as your physiology.
The duration of each phase of withdrawal will also depend on your personal circumstances. You could experience tougher withdrawal symptoms and phases longer or shorter than other people going through withdrawal from the same drug.
Acute withdrawal phase
This is the first wave of withdrawal symptoms. This phase is triggered hours after your last consumption of Ambien and typically kicks in as soon as four hours after your previous intake. Symptoms during this phase will manifest based on your particular addiction situation.
This is the stage where your body begins to face a new reality: life without Ambien. Your brain and body will struggle to cope with this new development. Given the circumstances, your body will initiate a readjustment process, with the symptoms that flare up serving as markers for this adaptation phase.
Withdrawal effects usually begin after the first four hours and gradually progress in severity. Symptoms generally peak during the first two days and begin to gradually fade as you advance further without using Ambien again. You will experience unpleasant symptoms that may see you tempted to return to using drugs. These adverse symptoms include rebound insomnia, memory problems, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, and even seizures and repressed breathing in severe cases.
The acute phase usually stretches for one to four weeks, but can vary depending on your individual situation. You will experience acute withdrawal throughout detox.
Protracted withdrawal phase
This usually follows the acute phase and could start to manifest during your latter stages of recovery. Symptoms during this phase are prominently psychological, unlike the acute phase with its debilitating physical withdrawal symptoms.
The protracted phase can last from several months to a year (or more), depending on the level of your dependence on Ambien and how much you’ve abused the drug. Symptoms during this phase mainly include mood swings, depression, and cravings. These symptoms can still lead you back to using Ambien again and shouldn’t be underestimated. Therefore, you shouldn’t let your guard down, but must continue seeking care, even when you feel you’ve been through the worst.
Ambien withdrawal symptoms: What to expect
Ambien is mostly used in the medical field as a sleeping aid for people who find it difficult falling (and staying) asleep. However, the drug can easily pull you into addiction, which can cause withdrawal to take hold when you stop taking it or lower your dose.
Withdrawal from Ambien can present serious symptoms with the potential for great risk; it can even be fatal, depending on your state of abuse. Going into remission requires negotiating withdrawal. This means that while withdrawal symptoms can be very distressing, withdrawal is a necessary evil that you must pass through if you’re going to break free from Ambien abuse.
Symptoms of withdrawal are both physical and psychological in nature. They will mainly be the opposite effects induced by Ambien, such as insomnia. These symptoms may grow in severity as time goes on, but they will subside after a period. If you notice the onset of symptoms such as insomnia, shakiness, nausea, vomiting, fever, and tremors, this is normal. However, you should seek medical assistance the moment you do.
If you abused alcohol or other drugs in combination with Ambien, your symptoms are likely to be more severe. If you’re quitting ‘cold turkey’ (i.e. abruptly discontinuing use), your symptoms could manifest in full force and be harder to manage. This is why medically assisted withdrawal treatment is necessary to help you taper off when doctors deem it necessary.
Physical symptoms of Ambien withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms induce certain physical effects. These are mainly by-products of your body’s readjustment activity. As your brain re-learns how to function normally without Ambien, physical discomfort will be experienced, as well as impairments to some physical activities.
Your physical health – as well as other situations surrounding your addiction – will contribute to the severity of your symptoms. These physical withdrawal symptoms will be prominent during the acute phase of withdrawal. Most of them will completely wear off after detox. Physical withdrawal symptoms you’re likely to experience when you stay off Ambien include:
- High blood pressure
- Stomach cramps
- Vomiting and nausea
- Aches and pains
Physical health problems that co-exist with your drug abuse can be fatally exacerbated during withdrawal. Seizures and respiratory depression are also risks, in rare cases leading to coma and even death.
Psychological withdrawal symptoms
When you take Ambien for a long period, you will become psychologically dependent on the drug. This means your brain will require a substantial amount of the drug for normal mental processes to take place. Psychological withdrawal symptoms typically begin to creep in before physical ones.
When Ambien is withdrawn from the body, GABA levels in the brain will be significantly depleted. This is because your brain has allowed Ambien to take over GABA production. When this occurs, neurons will begin to fire uncontrollably and your mental condition will be in a state of irrepressible excitement.
When you’ve stayed off Ambien for a long time after abuse, you will have a feeling that your body is about to come under siege. This psychological feeling may compel you to take the drug in haste in order to avert the perceived oncoming symptoms.
Psychological symptoms usually co-exist with physical ones during the acute withdrawal phase, but they represent most of what the protracted withdrawal phase is. The following are the psychological effects of withdrawal that you are likely to experience:
- Suicidal thoughts and attempts
- Cognitive problems
- Memory issues
If you have a dual diagnosis (i.e. other mental conditions occurring alongside your substance abuse), psychological problems can worsen during withdrawal. This requires an integrated treatment approach when you decide to fight your addiction. Please ensure you seek medical help whenever you want to quit using Ambien.
Call our admissions line 24 hours a day to get help.
The main medical reason for prescribing Ambien is to temporarily treat insomnia, as the drug can help induce and maintain sleep. Ceasing usage after chronic abuse will likely result in a lack of sleep, which could be worse than what you experienced before taking Ambien.
Some studies have found that rebound insomnia isn’t likely to occur in people who have been prescribed Ambien for sleep issues. However, this generally only applies in cases of controlled prescription. Taking large doses for a long while may produce withdrawal effects that lead to chronic sleeplessness, because the brain has learned to depend on Ambien.
Some users have experienced lack of sleep for days during withdrawal, but began to sleep normally again when they saw out the acute withdrawal phase.
Timeline of Ambien withdrawal
Everyone has a unique withdrawal experience. Yours may progress and last differently from someone else’s. The onset of these symptoms typically manifests from four hours to a couple of days, post ingestion. Withdrawal may last for anywhere between one and four weeks, with protracted withdrawal lasting for months and even years, depending on how advanced your dependence is.
The following timeline should be expected during withdrawal:
First 4-8 hours: You might begin to notice signs of withdrawal within the first 4-8 hours after your last use. This is mainly due to the short-half-life of Ambien. This will be the case if you’re a chronic abuser of the drug. If you’re moderately addicted, your withdrawal symptoms may take longer to set in.
First 24-48 hours: Symptoms fully manifest during this time. You’re likely to experience a barrage of symptoms, especially when you abruptly stop using Ambien. These include confusion, anxiety, fearfulness, mood swings, hallucinations, memory loss, nausea, vomiting, shakiness, and sleep disorders.
Days 3-5: Symptoms may progress and reach full throttle during this period. You could experience panic attacks, shakiness, and vomiting. Other adverse effects and complications may erupt during this stage as well. Rebound insomnia may also continue to plague you.
Week 1: Your symptoms may begin to wane from the first week after you have experienced them at their strongest. More psychological symptoms will be prominent at this time. These include nightmares, paranoia, depression and cravings.
Week 2: You will experience strong cravings, confusion, mood swings, and mild depression at this stage. Your sleep may begin to stabilise too.
Weeks 3-4: You should start feeling better during this period, as the psychological symptoms will also begin to fade, though some (like mood swings, anxiety, and cravings) may linger.
Remember that this is a generalised timeline, consistent with clinic reports and studies. You may or may not experience your withdrawal symptoms in this order. A number of complications such as medical situations may get in the way of your withdrawal and potentially shake things up. This is why it’s advised that you undergo medical treatment for your withdrawal.
Ambien detoxification: The lowdown
Detoxification is the process whereby your body gradually flushes out the remnants of Ambien in your bloodstream when you stop taking the drug for a while. This process can be fairly torturous, as it comes with debilitating withdrawal symptoms.
Your body initiates the detox process so that it can rebalance its chemical equilibrium and begin to function as it did prior to the introduction of large doses of Ambien. Detox is mainly carried out by the kidney and liver and these organs could come under a lot of stress and even require medical aid to thrive. Medical aid isn’t just required for these organs, as it is also important for your general well-being.
Your brain will not give up Ambien without craving it, and returning to normality can be quite an adjustment. As such, you’ll also require psychological support via medication and therapy. Your medical team will provide pharmacological help to get you through the worst of withdrawal in the most bearable manner possible.
One important part of the detox process is knowing when to taper off and when to finally quit. You’ll be weaned off Ambien gradually, or may be switched to a benzodiazepine with a longer half-life, to ensure you detox safely.
Ambien detox process
The detox process for Ambien includes intake, monitoring/stabilisation and transition to rehab. Detox is the first stage of your general treatment and its primary objective is to prepare you for the rest of your recovery journey.
During intake, your attending physician will draft a detox plan after conducting a thorough assessment of your general condition. Detox treatment plans are ideally individualised, as everyone goes through this phase in a uniquely personal way.
The monitoring process comprises detoxification proper. This is where your doctor and detox team will keep a close eye on you and provide medical assistance as your body expels Ambien from your system. You may be tapered off gradually or switched to another drug.
When your detox is complete and your body has properly eliminated Ambien from your bloodstream, your doctors will prepare you for rehab. Your doctor will explain the need for rehab and the dangers of not continuing your treatment.
Medically Supervised Ambien Withdrawal Detox
A medically supervised detox is the safest way to negotiate detox. With professionals presiding over the process, you will be on a safe path to recovery. Though the process won’t be easy, it still beats any other alternative. Whether you’re going through detox at home or otherwise, make sure you do so under medical supervision.
During medical detox, you’ll be gradually weaned off Ambien, especially when your addiction is severe. This process includes administering decreased doses of the drug to enable your liver and kidneys to handle the process, until the last remnants of the drug are flushed out. Tapering down your dose also keeps your body from becoming overactive as a result of the chaos that can occur in your brain if Ambien is abruptly withdrawn. The uncontrollable firing neurons could cause sudden panic attacks, high blood pressure (that may result in brain problems) and seizures.
You could be switched to another drug – generally a benzodiazepine with a longer half-life than Ambien – to help you pass through withdrawal safely. This is because your tolerance may be exceedingly high and the short half-life of Ambien will do more harm than good.
You’ll also be administered pharmaceutical drugs to ease the severity of some of your symptoms such as anxiety, panic attacks, seizures, and depression.
Medications used during Ambien withdrawal and detox
Some prescription drugs will be used by your doctors to mitigate your withdrawal symptoms, so you can be more comfortable during the process. These drugs include antidepressants to treat your depression, anxiolytics to reduce anxiety, and anticonvulsants to counter seizures.
The drugs you’ll be switched to when your dependence on Ambien is severe are mainly long-acting benzodiazepines. These could include Valium, Chlordiazepoxide or Diazepam. These drugs on their own are addictive, and as such require close medical monitoring.
Detox at home should be carried out carefully, but you’re advised to do everything in your power to attend a detox clinic. Before you make a decision on where you want to undergo detox, please contact a doctor or addiction specialist to evaluate your condition and provide a health risk assessment. This way, you’ll be told if it is safe to detox from home.
If you’d rather go through detox at home, please make sure you do so under medical guidance. Also, ensure you have all the help you can get, from family and friends to support group networks.
However, if your addiction is advanced or if you have a medical condition that your doctor feels may cause complications, ensure you follow recommendations, even if that means staying in a detox facility for a while. Doing this could not just see you through detox safely, but might also save your life as well.
Call our admissions line 24 hours a day to get help.
Why detoxification at home can be harmful
While Ambien is less powerful than other sedatives, abusing it will still put you at significant risk. Choosing to detox and go through withdrawal without medical guidance will increase those risks.
The safest way to negotiate detox often includes tapering off, as well as medication and therapy – all of which can only be handled by specialists who are trained to supervise detoxification.
Complications can arise during the detox process, as your body will be in some discomfort and pain. You’ll have a high chance of relapsing, which also puts you at risk of overdose. When you overdose, you may suffer repressed breathing, coma or even death.
Withdrawing from Ambien: Treatment methods and options
When going through medical treatment for Ambien withdrawal, you can do so as a residential patient (inpatient) in a detox facility, or as a visiting patient (outpatient). Make sure your doctor evaluates you before you choose which option to engage.
Inpatient treatment is judged as the best method for treating withdrawal. This is because you’ll be given round-the-clock care and will be assisted throughout withdrawal, without any distractions from the outside world. An inpatient programme is ideal if your addiction to Ambien is chronic.
An outpatient programme is devised to cater for your needs if you are limited by time constraints and have a lot of responsibilities that might rule you out of inpatient care. An outpatient programme will also be the right choice if your doctors believe your withdrawal can be managed from home.
Guided Ambien therapy
Therapy for Ambien addiction involves therapeutic activities, targeted at getting to the root of your addiction issues, as they concern your mental and behavioural state. These therapy options work to identify and address the behaviours that led to your addiction to Ambien and those that resulted from it.
However, it doesn’t end there. Therapy also serves to teach you new behaviours and coping skills that will enable you to start and maintain a new life without Ambien and the influence of addiction.
Facts and Stats about Ambien withdrawal
- Ambien is a prescription drug, mainly used for treating insomnia
- Ambien is the brand name for the generic drug, Zolpidem
- The drug has a short half-life of two to three hours
- Its effects last for about three hours
- It is metabolised through the liver and excreted through the kidneys (56%) and faeces (34%)
- Ambien is a nonbenzodiazepine, but has a similar action mechanism to benzodiazepines
- It is a Class C drug in the UK
- Unchecked use of Ambien can lead to addiction
- Overdose (that could lead to death) can occur from continued abuse
Live a drug-free life again
Addiction to Ambien does not rule out your chances of becoming drug-free again. You can achieve abstinence and turn your life around. You may be taking Ambien for lack of sleep, but there are alternative methods to help you achieve sound sleep and a calm mind.
You should put an end to your Ambien abuse today, because you can. Help is available and you can start a brand new chapter once you make that bold and firm decision to take back control of your life. Call a confidential addiction helpline today or contact your GP to get help.
While your detox and withdrawal represent the worst of your general recovery, they don’t represent the end. The battle goes on long after detox and you should take care to prevent using Ambien again, as it could entail starting over from another withdrawal and detox stage.
Ensure you keep up appointments with your therapist and commit to your sessions, activities, and set goals. Take every step and follow every instruction, so you can cope without relapsing.
Tips for handling cravings
Here are some tips that will help you handle cravings for Ambien during and after your treatment:
Remain on target: Make sure you fixate your mind on what you’re looking to achieve. Always remind yourself what the goal is whenever cravings begin to occur.
Reminisce: When cravings arise, look back on things you’ve suffered and how far you’ve come in fighting your addiction. Understand how you’ll be destroying years of commitment and hard work if you yield to your cravings.
Redirect your thoughts: Distract yourself whenever thoughts of using drugs surface again. Engage in other activities, until you don’t remember your cravings at all.
Relax: Try as best you can to reduce stress, as this may be a trigger for using again, especially knowing that Ambien possesses relaxing effects.
Avoid bad company: Avoid environments and company that encourages drug use at all costs.
Request help: If you feel vulnerable and believe you’re on the verge of relapsing, call for help. Schedule an appointment with your therapist or join a support group to strengthen your resolve.
What is Ambien withdrawal?
Ambien withdrawal is a set of symptoms that manifest when you reduce your dose of Ambien or quit entirely after an extended period of abusing the drug.
How long does Ambien withdrawal last?
The duration of your withdrawal from Ambien will depend on the conditions surrounding your abuse and addiction. However, withdrawal is known to last anywhere between one to four weeks.
Is Ambien withdrawal dangerous?
Withdrawal can be dangerous if it is undertaken without medical guidance.
Are there any home remedies for getting clean safely?
The best way to detox is with medical care. Consult your doctor, and if your specialist believes you can detox from home, you’ll be directed regarding the best way to go about it.
How long does it take to detox from Ambien?
Detox may take a while, but it will generally hinge on how fast your body expels the drug. As a result of tapering down, detox may take longer than it does for other drugs.
Can medication help?
Yes. Medication can help reduce your withdrawal symptoms and see you through this difficult phase.
Can I find help?
Help is readily available to see you through withdrawal and recovery. Call any confidential helpline in the UK to point you in the right direction.
Are there ways to prevent or reduce withdrawal symptoms?
Withdrawal will always occur after long-term abuse and addiction. However, you can reduce symptoms if you undergo medically assisted Ambien withdrawal and detox.