A Guide to Ambien Detox and Withdrawal

Ambien is the brand name for zolpidem, and it’s considered a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic sedative. Ambien is used to treat short-term insomnia that’s characterized by difficulties with falling asleep. 1 The drug slows down neural activity in the brain, allowing the person to fall asleep. 

Problems with Ambien are on the rise in the United States. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration(SAMHSA) reported that the number of emergency room visits that involved zolpidem increased for both men and women between 2005-2006 and 2009-2010. 2 

What Is Ambien (Zolpidem) Withdrawal?

Ambien is classified by the federal government as a Schedule IV controlled substance, which means it carries with it a risk of physical dependence. If you’re physically dependent on Ambien, you can experience withdrawal symptoms if you: 1 

  • Abruptly quit taking Ambien
  • Rapidly reduce the dose
  • Are given a drug antagonist

There have been numerous reports of zolpidem abuse and dependence in recent years. This has created a focus in the research and medical community on the adverse symptoms this type of withdrawal can create, such as seizures. 3 Other withdrawal symptoms from Ambien can include: 1 

  • Uneasiness
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal and muscle cramps
  • Tremors
  • Fatigue
  • Uncontrolled crying
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nervousness
  • Panic attacks

What Is Ambien Detox?

The most common symptoms of Ambien withdrawal (trouble sleeping and uneasiness) are very likely the symptoms that the drug was prescribed for in the first place. 4 This can create a vicious circle: many individuals start using Ambien again for relief from these withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit taking the drug.  

Taper Down

The best way to stop taking Ambien to gradually taper down the dosage with the guidance of healthcare professionals in a detoxification center. Psychological or therapeutic support provided in a detox center can help with the detoxification process. 4 

Like any other substances that can cause dependence, it’s safer and less risky to withdraw from Ambien with medical help. You can’t stop taking Ambien abruptly, but need to gradually taper off to avoid the onset of withdrawal symptoms. How much and how fast you do this is best left to healthcare professionals, because if you taper off too much or too quickly, you could experience Ambien withdrawal syndrome. 

Replacement Medication Therapies 

A variety of supplemental medications have been proven effective in some cases to assist in Ambien withdrawal. 

A switch to a benzodiazepine can help ease withdrawal. Benzodiazepines with a long half-life can work well, such as clonazepam (Klonopin) or chlordiazepoxide (Librium). 5 A long-acting barbiturate such as Phenobarbital can be effective in the detox process. 

Anticonvulsants medications, such as valproate (Depacon) and carbamazepine (Tegretol), or sedative antidepressants, such as imipramine (Tofranil) and trazodone (Oleptro), have been successfully used in withdrawal from Ambien. 6 

Find Medical Help for Detox from Ambien 

The best way to avoid relapse is keeping withdrawal symptoms to a minimum when quitting. A medical detox center can help you gradually reduce the dose over time, while providing medical, therapeutic, and nutritional support during withdrawal. 

Ambien detox at a specialized facility is safer and healthier than an at-home detox. The guidance, expertise, and support of medical professionals is important during this uncomfortable and possibly medically risky time.  

Ambien withdrawal syndrome can start as early as four hours after the last dose. Peak withdrawal symptoms start at approximately five days, and symptoms can linger two weeks or longer. A professional Ambien detox puts you or a loved one on the right path toward a successful recovery.