Ambien is a medication prescribed to help people who suffer from chronic insomnia, however, it is not advised to use long term. Doctors are advised that after a few weeks of use, if the patient is still suffering from insomnia, they should be prescribed an alternative therapy and taken off Ambien.
In recent years, Ambien has become a medication that people are more frequently abusing. Ambien is the brand name for Zolpidem, and also goes by Intermezzo, Zolpimist and Edluar. Physicians have been advised that patients with histories of addictive behaviors, were more likely to develop an addiction to Ambien. However, a study in 2011 suggested that Ambien abuse can also be addictive for people with no previous problems with addiction because of the mesmerizing high it produces.
If used as prescribed, Ambien may help people with chronic insomnia fall asleep, however, it does not help them stay asleep. Ambien is prescribed to be taken within one hour before the patient goes to bed. When people abuse Ambien, they take the medication without the intention of going to sleep, they will take it in much higher doses and sometimes with alcohol or other stimulants, as it enhances the drugs mesmerizing effects.
The lowest effective dose of Ambien is always prescribed by doctors. Doctors are also advised to monitor their patient closely for and psychological changes that may arise. If the patient seems to have a need for sleep medication beyond a 10 day period, it can be an indicator that the patient has become dependent on Ambien or could possibly be abusing the medication.
Symptoms of Withdrawal from Ambien
A person who has become addicted to Ambien will experience symptoms of withdrawal within 48 hours after their last dose. These symptoms include mood swings, irritability, anxiety, panic attacks, a reoccurrence of insomnia, rapid breathing and heart rate, tremors, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, abdominal discomfort and cramps, sweating, flushing, cravings for Ambien, delirium, depression or uncontrollable crying. In less than 1% of withdrawal cases, people can also experience seizures. It is more typical for this to happen in cases where someone stops taking Ambien “cold turkey” or is suddenly unable to obtain the medication.
Withdrawal Timeline for Ambien
Within 1 to 2 weeks, Ambien detox or withdrawal symptoms will lessen or disappear entirely. The first three to five days are when the most acute withdrawal symptoms will typically occur. However, psychological symptoms can persist for up to 2 weeks, and in rare cases, people can experience cravings, insomnia and panic attacks (or other side effects) for months after not using Ambien.
Although a period of 1 to 2 weeks is typical for Ambien detox or withdrawal, it is highly individual and not always easy to know how long withdrawal will take. There are several circumstances that may affect how long a person may experience withdrawal symptoms from Ambien:
-One of these factors is how long an individual has been using Ambien. If it has only been a short period of time, there is less likelihood of severe symptoms, if any at all.
-Another factor is dosage. When Ambien is used in higher doses than were prescribed, a person will develop a tolerance to the medication. In this case, more Ambien is required in order to feel “normal”. This will lead to more intense withdrawal symptoms, both physical and psychological.
-Extended-release Ambien can also be a factor. These medications are a higher dose of the drug than the regular Ambien. Extended-release is intended to be slowly released into the body with normal use, however, when abused there are ways the individual can bypass the chemicals that slow the release and take a much larger dose all at once, causing more intense withdrawal symptoms.
If other medications, illegal drugs or any alcohol are taken in addition to Ambien, this can make the effects of Ambien more intense. If all medications, alcohol, etc., are stopped at the same time, the withdrawal symptoms are likely to be compounded.
Medications Used for Ambien Detox
Medical professionals may prescribe psychiatric treatment for anxiety or depression when related to Ambien detox or withdrawal, however, there are a few medications that can treat withdrawal symptoms. There are anti-seizure medications for people who suffer from withdrawal seizures. There are also mood-stabilizing medications for those who suffer from suicidal thoughts or severe anxiety (prescribed for short term use).
Recent research has suggested that Quetiapine has helped with some Ambien detox or withdrawal symptoms. Quetiapine is an anti-psychotic used for treatment of bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia. This medication is not currently being prescribed for use with Ambien withdrawal.
It is highly recommended that people who want to stop using Ambien speak with their Doctor regarding potential withdrawal symptoms. Since there is a small risk for seizures, it is better for the Doctor to work with the patient on tapering the Ambien dose down, rather than stopping all at once. This can help not only with withdrawal symptoms, but decreases the risk of seizures.
People who are dealing with an addiction to Ambien need comprehensive treatment when they stop taking this medication. A medical detox is recommended and while this is a starting point towards recovery, it is not the only treatment needed.
It is important that people learn coping skills and have some therapy when working through the psychological problems that arise during recovery. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help teach these skills. Another good source of emotional support for people going through recovery can be group therapy.
During Ambien detox and withdrawal, Milestone Detox can provide the most supportive and comprehensive medical environment needed during all stages of detox to ensure successful recovery. If you or a loved one need help, call one of our professional admissions team members for a free and confidential assessment.