How Long Does Ambien Withdrawal Last?
Ambien Withdrawal Timeline, Symptoms, Dangers, Detox & Addiction Rehab Treatment
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What is Ambien?
More than one-third of Americans suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders. Zolpidem is the most commonly prescribed medication to treat insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep) and other sleep disorders.
Zolpidem, commonly sold under the brand name Ambien, comes in many forms. Tablet forms (Ambien) and an extended-release (long-acting) tablet (Ambien CR) are both taken by mouth. Zolpidem also comes as a tablet to be placed under the tongue (Edular, Intermezzo) and an oral spray (Zolpimist).
Ambien is classified as a sedative-hypnotic, a class of drugs prescribed to help individuals with sleep disorders fall asleep and/or stay asleep throughout the night. It works by increasing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain which slows activity in the brain and the central nervous system (CNS), working quickly to initiate sleep.
Like all sleep aids, Ambien is intended for short-term use (typically no more than two weeks), not a long-term solution or cure. Research indicates that there might be a link between those who take Ambien or other sleeping pills daily and an increase in mortality rate.
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How Addictive is Ambien?
Ambien is a non-benzodiazepine sedative most commonly prescribed for the treatment of insomnia and other sleep disorders. Ambien addiction, however, is becoming more common as Ambien abusers become addicted to Ambien’s effects. Ambien addicts use Ambien because it gives them a sense of euphoria and relaxation that they cannot achieve naturally or through other means such as alcohol or illegal drugs.
Ambien also causes the Ambien addict to feel sleepy and lethargic which can cause Ambien addicts to become very reliant on Ambien. Ambien comes in three forms: an immediate-release tablet that is usually prescribed for initiating sleep, a sustained-release form that is commonly used for maintaining sleep, and a 12-hour extended-release Ambien CR also used for maintaining sleep. Ambien addiction occurs when Ambien addicts cannot function without Ambien and Ambien becomes more important than family, friends, or career.
Ambien is a brand name for Zolpidem Tartrate, a sedative drug that is prescribed to treat insomnia. It is one of the varieties of prescription drugs that can cause severe addiction. In the scientific piece ‘Zolpidem dependence, abuse and withdrawal: A case report, M. Heydari, M. Saberi, published by The Us National Library of Medicine, the authors showed that zolpidem can exert abuse capability, euphoric mood, tolerance, and withdrawal syndrome.
Ambien is in a class of drugs known as Sedative-Hypnotics. It works by activating the neurotransmitter GABA, which slows down the brain and the central nervous system (CNS). Ambien is used to treat insomnia but is only intended for short-term use. There are two forms of Ambien, a quick-release form that is helpful for initiating sleep and an extended-release form that is helpful for maintaining sleep. Use of either form can lead to Ambien addiction.
This non-Benzodiazepine “Z-Drug” was designed to have the same medical effect as Benzodiazepines, like Xanax, without the same hazardous and habit-forming properties those drugs are known for. The makers of Ambien designed and marketed the drug as a less addictive alternative to Benzos for people with acute insomnia. However, while it generally takes users longer to develop an addiction to Ambien, than to Benzos, and withdrawal from Ambien is generally less severe and dangerous than Benzo withdrawal, Ambien is still an addictive substance. In fact, it is now recognized that Ambien has a similar abuse potential to Benzos.
The physical dependence on Ambien can form in as little as two weeks, whether the user is following a prescription or abusing the drug. Ambien dependence is characterized by tolerance, whereby the user requires larger amounts of the substance to feel the same effect and withdrawal symptoms that appear if the user stops taking the drug or reduces their dosage.
Eventually, Ambien dependence may become a full-blown addiction; this is characterized by tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, impaired control overuse, compulsive use, continued use despite harm, and cravings. Many people don’t know they have a problem until they stop taking the drug and realize they cannot sleep without it.
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Typically, the range of Ambien withdrawal symptoms lasts about two weeks, but this can vary from person to person depending on various factors like:
- The dosage of Ambien: If the dosage was higher and tolerance has been built, the withdrawal effects may be more severe physically and psychologically.
- How long one has been using the drug: For those who’ve used Ambien for a short time, the withdrawal symptoms may not be as intense or as long.
- Type of Ambien: Withdrawal symptoms tend to be worse for those that took the extended-release version of Ambien.
- Were other drugs involved: Ambien’s withdrawal symptoms tend to be worse for those who mix other drugs with Ambien, including alcohol and illegal drugs. Quitting all of them at one time can cause more severe symptoms.
- Genetics and Biology: Someone’s history of addiction, gender, age, metabolism, and race can affect Ambien’s withdrawal symptoms.
Ambien Withdrawal Timeline
How soon one will begin experiencing Ambien withdrawal symptoms depends on the severity of dependence. Those that have a heavy dependence may begin experiencing symptoms within four to eight hours after the last dose. However, most people begin to experience symptoms within 24 to 28 hours after the last dose, ranging from rebound insomnia, confusion, difficulty focusing, and mood swings.
The most daunting or acute physical withdrawal symptoms will occur around days three to five, possibly experiencing stomach cramping, vomiting, increased anxiety, nausea, shaking, mood swings, trouble urinating, depression, and generally feeling like you have the flu.
Days 6-2 Weeks
At around day six, symptoms should start subsiding. The physical withdrawal symptoms will likely be gone by the end of a couple of weeks, though psychological symptoms like sadness, insomnia, cravings, and anxiety may linger for several more weeks or months. If sleep is still an issue, consult a doctor regarding alternative treatment options.
Ambien is a serious medication. There are always risks associated with taking it, and if taken in high doses, permanent memory loss can occur. There is also the risk of waking up in the middle of the night and sleepwalking, which can result in injury, sleep-driving, sleep-talking, and more.
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Symptoms of Ambien Withdrawal
Various signs and symptoms of withdrawal may arise when Ambien’s use suddenly stops or if the dose is rapidly decreased. In some cases, the symptoms of withdrawal associated with relatively short-acting sedative-hypnotic medications like Ambien develop as soon as 6-8 hours after the final dose. These symptoms may include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Seizures in rare cases
- Hand tremor
- Rapid heart rate and breathing
In clinical trials, Ambien withdrawal was reported within 48 hours of the last dose and included symptoms such as:
- Panic attack
- Uncontrolled crying
- Stomach cramps
Ambien Withdrawal Treatment
Sedative hypnotic withdrawal may benefit from medical supervision and may require management with benzodiazepines or other relatively long-acting sedating agents to mitigate the risks of severe or complicated withdrawal. People who wish to stop using Ambien are encouraged to talk to their doctor about the potential for withdrawal symptoms and how to slowly stop taking the drug to best avoid withdrawal.
Ambien Detox Treatment
Abruptly stopping the use of Ambien—especially for those who have taken the drug for extended periods of time and at higher doses—can be potentially dangerous. When physical dependence is pronounced, quitting without medical supervision may not be advisable due to the risk of experiencing potentially severe withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures.
Medically supervised detox can ease the process of quitting Ambien. Though a period of supervised medical detox may take place in an outpatient setting, when more severe withdrawal risks are present, Ambien withdrawal management may more safely take place at a detox center or inpatient addiction treatment facility.
While detox is an important first step, it is typically not enough to support an individual’s long-term recovery from drug addiction.
To maintain recovery over time and avoid relapse, ongoing treatment can more comprehensively address the individual’s underlying thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that led to the Ambien misuse in the first place. An evidence-based rehab program can help an individual learn the skills needed for lasting recovery. Treatment looks different for every individual but might include:
- Inpatient rehabilitation. Inpatient treatment includes 24-hour care in a residential facility, where treatment may incorporate individual and group counseling, various therapies, psychiatric care, education, and more to help the individual understand and resolve the issues that led to the Ambien misuse and help them develop coping strategies as well.
- Individual counseling and therapy. One-on-one sessions help people get to the root of their problems, address the psychological issues behind the addiction, and learn to modify behaviors to maintain abstinence and avoid relapse.
- Group counseling and therapy. Some of the same strategies applied during individual sessions work in a group, where individuals can learn from and support peers with similar struggles.
- Twelve-step programs. While not professional treatment themselves, these programs outline a program for lifelong recovery and serve to complement the benefits of more formal professional treatment efforts. Individuals gain support from peers. Some individuals select a sponsor or peer who is further along in their recovery to aid them in their recovery efforts.
Beyond the formal treatment program, aftercare services, which may include ongoing counseling, continued support groups, sober living communities, job placement help, and alumni activities help individuals maintain long-term abstinence.
 ‘Zolpidem dependence, abuse, and withdrawal: A case report. M. Heydari, M. Saberi. – The Us National Library of Medicine (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)