Ambien can be helpful for the short-term or occasional treatment of sleep issues, but this prescription drug can also be addictive when abused. Ambien is the brand name for zolpidem and has been widely seen as a safer alternative to benzodiazepines, which have a high potential for abuse and addiction. Even so, as the medical community is seeing more issues with Ambien use, there are some recent efforts to look for alternative sleep aids.
Ambien is in a class of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics, more commonly known as sleeping pills. It comes in both regular and extended-release forms. With few exceptions, the drug is prescribed for no longer than 2-3 weeks or on an as-needed, infrequent basis. Medical guidelines call for physicians to begin Ambien treatment by prescribing the lowest dose possible and closely monitor their patient’s usage and psychological state for the duration of treatment.
Addiction to Ambien can develop quickly. Some people taking Ambien enjoy the effects of Ambien. In high doses or when crushed and snorted, Ambien can provide a relaxed, uninhibited feeling, and in some cases, euphoria, and hallucinations. Ambien is meant to be used right before sleep. Staying up after taking Ambien even in prescribed doses can lead to some of these “high’ effects as well. People who abuse Ambien with the intention of getting high may mix it with other depressants like alcohol or stimulants to enhance its effects.
Whether you’ve been taking Ambien for medical purposes or abusing it, you will likely experience some withdrawal symptoms when you stop. The severity of these symptoms will depend on factors like:
- How long you’ve been taking Ambien
- How much Ambien you’ve been taking
- Your individual physical makeup
- Whether you’re also taking other substances
- If you’ve been using it medically or abusing large doses of Ambien
If you’ve been taking Ambien medically for two weeks or more, you may have some rebound insomnia. You can have difficulty falling asleep — the same symptom the drug was meant to treat. You may also experience some of the below symptoms, though these will be more severe if you stop taking Ambien and you’ve been abusing it or using it for long periods of time.
Zolpidem withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Tremors and shakiness
- Rebound insomnia
- Stomach cramps
- Agitation and irritability
Like the severity of withdrawal symptoms, how long zolpidem withdrawal lasts will also depend on factors like: dose, duration of use, physical makeup, and medical use versus abuse.
Typically, Ambien / zolpidem withdrawal symptoms begin within a couple of days. You may have headaches and feel confused, unfocused, and out of sorts. At the two-day mark, withdrawal symptoms become more pronounced. Abdominal discomfort, rebound, insomnia, sweating, and alterations between anxiety and depression may intensify.
At around 72 hours, you may feel strong cravings to use Ambien. Anxiety, rebound insomnia, and physical symptoms of Ambien withdrawal may continue or get worse. This period usually lasts about a week. Ambien withdrawal symptoms will slowly taper off. You may have lingering psychological symptoms like anxiety or depression for several weeks, though less severe. It can also take several weeks to get your sleep back to normal if you’ve been taking large quantities for a long period of time.
Ambien withdrawal and detox isn’t considered dangerous like other substances such as alcohol, though it can be if you have polysubstance abuse or underlying medical conditions. In rare cases there have been reports of seizures. You should never attempt to quit cold turkey and detox from a substance you’re dependent on without the care of medical professionals.
If you’ve been taking Ambien as prescribed by your doctor, they can set up a taper schedule for you and add other interventions as needed to ensure Ambien detox is safe. However, if you’ve been abusing Ambien for some time, and especially if you’re using other substances like alcohol, you should always detox in a medical setting or drug rehab center. At these facilities, medical professionals will monitor your vitals and comfort level around the clock. They’ll ease severe withdrawal symptoms and attend to medical emergencies.
Medical detox for Ambien or any other substance ensures that you’re safe during the withdrawal process. A team of 24/7 detox specialists will be with you the entire time, attending to discomfort and making sure you’re medically safe. They can use appropriate medications to ease withdrawal symptoms and they know the safest, most effective taper schedules.
Medical detox also helps prevent relapse. When you’re white knuckling through withdrawal on your own, the temptation to use drugs or alcohol to alleviate discomfort can be overwhelming.
Some people worry that drug and alcohol detox will be like it’s portrayed in film and TV — alone in a bare room, sweating it out on your own. That is not the case. Most medical detox programs have private or semi-private rooms where you’ll have a comfortable bed, furnishings, pleasing decor, and can hang out in common areas as you feel up to it. Medical staff check on you regularly and you can move about as you desire.
If you’re abusing Ambien and other substances, medically assisted detox is just the first step in the recovery process. Behavioral therapy or time in an addiction treatment center is what helps you address the root causes of substance abuse. When you understand the reasons why you abuse drugs and alcohol and begin healing those underlying issues, it’s easier to refrain from substance abuse.
Challenges that often fuel drug and alcohol abuse include:
- Complex trauma and PTSD
- Mental health disorders like depression and anxiety disorders
- Dysfunctional relationships in early childhood
- Grief and loss
- Poor self-worth and coping skills
Addiction centers like Footprints to Recovery provide dual diagnosis treatment, which addresses co-occurring disorders like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. They may also have trauma therapies like EMDR that specifically tackle underlying trauma. A blend of individual and group therapy will help you heal from emotional wounds and learn the coping skills and life changes needed for long-term recovery.
If you’re struggling with Ambien addiction or other substance abuse, call Footprints to Recovery treatment facility for a free, confidential consultation. We offer engaging, evidence-based addiction and mental health treatment that works. You’ll get treated by behavioral health experts who truly care about your well-being and recovery and are experts in the field. With levels of care that include outpatient and inpatient rehab options and a wide range of traditional and holistic therapies, we can find a treatment program that fits your needs. Call us to verify your insurance and see how we can help.