How to Wean Off and Stop Taking Ambien Safely

How to Wean Off and Stop Taking Ambien Safely

Ambien (zolpidem) is a non-benzodiazepine sedative or hypnotic drug that’s prescribed as a short-term treatment for insomnia. It’s a Schedule IV controlled substance according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), due to its limited risk of abuse and addiction.[1]

Though Ambien is not as addictive as substances like opioids or stimulants, it’s possible to become dependent on Ambien and experience withdrawal symptoms, some of which can be dangerous. Weaning off Ambien is recommended to minimize withdrawal symptoms.

What Is Ambien?

Ambien is one of the z-drugs, a group of hypnotic drugs that cause sedation, begin with the letter “Z” (zolpidem, zopiclone, and zaleplon), and are used to treat insomnia and other sleep problems.[2]

Z-drugs are non-benzodiazepines, but they work similarly and mimic the action of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) to induce sleepiness.[3]

Ambien Withdrawal

Ambien is prescribed for the short-term treatment of insomnia. In fact, the label indicates it should be prescribed for “as short as possible” to avoid dependence.[4] Chronic use of Ambien not only increases tolerance and encourages misuse, but it can come with more severe side effects and withdrawal symptoms.

Some of Ambien’s withdrawal symptoms include:[5]

  • Flushing
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Sweating
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures

How to Stop Taking Ambien

The best way to minimize withdrawal symptoms is by tapering off Ambien. Your doctor can help you determine the ideal Ambien taper schedule based on your dosage and length of use, but tapering generally involves taking smaller doses over time to slowly wean you off the medication.

A tapered dose reduces the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms, making it easier to quit Ambien and avoid relapse. But for people with Ambien dependence, taking increasingly smaller doses can be challenging, especially if they’ve been using Ambien over long periods or at high doses.

You should always speak with your doctor for advice on how to quit Ambien, but an example schedule to taper off Ambien for 20 mg of Ambien may include:[6]

Sample Ambien Taper Schedule

Sample Ambien Taper Schedule

Timeline Change in Dosage Total Dosage
Day 1 20 mg
Day 2 Decrease by 5 mg 15 mg
Day 5 Decrease by 5 mg 5 mg
Day 8 Decrease by 5 mg 5 mg
Day 11 Discontinue

How to Stop Ambien with Medical Detox

Regular Ambien use can lead to tolerance and dependence, especially when it’s used over long periods or in high doses. The withdrawal process can be difficult and unpleasant, causing people to relapse.

Ambien withdrawal is mostly unpleasant and can be reduced with a tapering schedule, but it can be dangerous for some people. Stopping Ambien abruptly can trigger seizures in people with a history, so it’s important to wean off Ambien under medical supervision.[7]

People who use Ambien with other substances, especially depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepines, are at a higher risk of seizures and other adverse effects.[8]

Medical detox is often recommended for people who are at risk of dangerous withdrawal symptoms or struggle to quit Ambien on their own. With medical detox, you have 24/7 medical staff to keep you safe and comfortable while the drug clears your system – which can take weeks.

Ambien detox is helpful for managing withdrawal, which can be the most difficult aspect of getting off Ambien, but it may not be enough on its own. Addiction treatment is recommended to identify the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to Ambien abuse and addiction, including the issues of insomnia that require it.

Unlike other drugs, Ambien addiction typically evolves from proper use of a prescribed medication for insomnia. Over time, tolerance builds up, leading people to take higher doses to address their sleep issues.

Without the effects of Ambien, some people still struggle with insomnia. Addiction treatment can address the causes of insomnia and drug misuse, such as anxiety or depression. Depending on your individual needs, inpatient or outpatient treatment with behavioral therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be ideal.[9]

Frequently Asked Questions

01

Can You Quit Ambien Cold Turkey?

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It may be possible to quit Ambien cold turkey if it’s only been used for a short period at the recommended dose, which is between 5 mg and 10 mg. Generally, the higher the dose or length of use, the more difficult the withdrawal symptoms may be. Regardless, you should always speak with a doctor first before quitting Ambien cold turkey.

02

What Does It Mean to Wean Off Ambien?

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Weaning or tapering off Ambien means gradually reducing the dose of the drug over a period of time to minimize withdrawal symptoms. Tapering isn’t necessary in every case, but for people who use Ambien for long periods or in high doses may not be able to quit cold turkey without experiencing severe and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to consult with your doctor for how to get off Ambien safely.

03

Is Medical Detox Necessary to Quit Ambien?

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Medical detox may not be necessary in every case, but it can be helpful for people trying to quit Ambien. Trying to quit on your own, even with a tapered dose schedule, can be challenging and uncomfortable, potentially leading to relapse or serious complications – not to mention that it can take weeks. Medical detox keeps you safe and comfortable with the supervision of medical staff to manage withdrawal.

Sources
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[02]

Highlights of prescribing information need to evaluate for comorbid … (n.d.-f). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2022/019908s40s044s047lbl.pdf on 2023, July 10.

[03]

Highlights of prescribing information need to evaluate for comorbid … (n.d.-f). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2022/019908s40s044s047lbl.pdf on 2023, July 10.

[04]

Highlights of prescribing information need to evaluate for comorbid … (n.d.-f). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2022/019908s40s044s047lbl.pdf on 2023, July 10.

[05]

Highlights of prescribing information need to evaluate for comorbid … (n.d.-f). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2022/019908s40s044s047lbl.pdf on 2023, July 10.

[06]

Mattoo, S. K., Gaur, N., & Das, P. P. (2011, November). Zolpidem withdrawal delirium. Indian journal of pharmacology. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3229797/ on 2023, July 10.

[07]

Mattoo, S. K., Gaur, N., & Das, P. P. (2011, November). Zolpidem withdrawal delirium. Indian journal of pharmacology. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3229797/ on 2023, July 10.

[08]

Highlights of prescribing information need to evaluate for comorbid … (n.d.-f). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2022/019908s40s044s047lbl.pdf on 2023, July 10.

[09]

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2023, April 5). Insomnia treatment: Cognitive behavioral therapy instead of Sleeping Pills. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/in-depth/insomnia-treatment/art-20046677 on 2023, July 10.

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