Ambien is the brand name medicine for zolpidem, which is a drug prescribed to treat insomnia. It falls under the sedative-hypnotic class of drugs and works to slow activity in the brain to bring sleep. Insomnia is distinguished as “an inability to initiate or maintain sleep,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many people in the U.S. struggle with insomnia. It is thought that between 10% and 30% of adults struggle with chronic insomnia, and between 30% and 48% of older adults struggle with it too. A surprising fact is that about 25% of young children have sleeping problems that cause excessive sleepiness. Poor sleep results in drowsy driving, which can cause accidents, or worse, fatalities from accidents.
Ambien is also called a “Z-drug” because it falls under the drug classification of non-benzodiazepines. These types of medicines usually begin with the letter Z, which is how the nickname of “Z-drug” started. They are reportedly less addictive and safer to use than benzodiazepines; however, they still have the possibility of misuse, abuse, and chemical dependency. Some people have become addicted to Ambien and medications like them in a few weeks.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicates that Ambien is a central nervous system depressant medicine. Medicine that falls in this category slows brain activity, which helps individuals who have insomnia fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
When you take Ambien, it will cause drowsiness and a calming feeling. It can also make you feel uncoordinated, but that goes away once your body adjusts to the drug. Ambien has some other side effects to know:
- Slurred speech
- Poor concentration
- Dry mouth
- Lowered blood pressure
- Problems with movement and memory
- Slowed breathing
Long-term Ambien use, even with a legitimate description, can create tolerance of the drug. Tolerance occurs when your system does not respond to the medicine’s effects as it once did. This can lead you to take more Ambien, which is dangerous. Taking more of it than directed can also lead to chemical dependency.
Chemical dependency is apparent when withdrawal symptoms are experienced if you stop taking the drug without tapering off of it.
It is helpful to know what to expect from Ambien withdrawal.
Detox and Withdrawal Symptoms
Ambien, like most medications, can cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop using it suddenly after taking it for a long time or if you have misused it for recreational purposes. Some people have reported just feeling a bit unwell, while others have said they had tremors, vomiting, and panic attacks. The label from the drug manufacturer states that roughly 1 percent of people who are taking a therapeutic dose will notice withdrawal symptoms.
How intense your withdrawal symptoms will be are determined by a few important factors:
- How long you have taken Ambien
- The dosage you are taking
- How you have taken it, such as swallowing a pill, snorting, or injecting it
You might experience mild symptoms, at first, including insomnia and restlessness. These usually do not affect most people from engaging in everyday activities. More severe symptoms you could experience include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle cramps
Other physical and psychological symptoms you could feel are:
- Panic attacks
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach cramps
- Heart palpitations
- Aches and pains
- Hand tremors
- Confusion or delirium
How Long Does Ambien Withdrawal Last?
Withdrawal symptoms commonly start within 48 hours after the last dose and should dissipate within a week or two. It takes roughly 11 hours for Ambien to exit the body, according to Drugs.com, which also notes that elimination of the drug “varies from person to person due to factors like age, weight, other medications taken, or other medical conditions present, ” as well as kidney and liver function.
It might take five to seven days for most of your withdrawal symptoms to clear up, and most should be gone by the second week after the last dose you have taken. There may be lingering symptoms after that, such as anxiety and insomnia. These are best addressed in a treatment program where you will learn how to manage them without substances. If not, they could last longer.
How Dangerous Is Ambien withdrawal?
An Ambien overdose could occur if you take too much of this medication at one time. Signs and symptoms of an overdose are impaired consciousness that can range from drowsiness to coma and slowed heart and breathing rates, per RxList. Death from overdose is also possible.
Ambien has also been known to cause some users to experience odd side effects that Healthline relates, such as:
- Changes in behavior
- Sleepwalking or driving
- Sleep eating, cooking
Is it bad to take Ambien every night?
Generally speaking, it is not bad to take Ambien every night. Nonetheless, it is a prescription sedative that is prescribed to be taken for a short time. You should also know that Ambien CR (extended-release) has two layers: the first one helps you to fall asleep, and the inner layer dissolves more slowly so that you stay asleep. Drugs.com warns that the “inner layer can also mean blood levels of the drug are still high enough the next morning to impair your ability to drive or operate machinery.”
Also, you need to devote a full eight hours of sleep when taking Ambien because less sleep could cause amnesia.
Does Ambien work for opioid withdrawal?
Ambien may be directed in addiction treatment to help you sleep during opioid withdrawal. However, some user reports indicate that it gave people very bad stomach pains. It is always best to get the advice of medical professionals, either your private care physician or those in your substance use treatment center. Don’t try to take Ambien on your own during opioid withdrawal. It, too, can lead to dependence and withdrawal symptoms of its own.
Ambien Withdrawal Treatment
It is never a good idea to try Ambien withdrawal on your own. You should consult with the prescribing physician to work on tapering the dose, which is to lessen its effects over time. You could avoid some of the more uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you taper off Ambien. Tapering gives your body and brain the ability to adjust to the lower doses of the medicine over time. If you are dealing with a mild dependence on the drug, your doctor will be able to more safely and efficiently wean you off the medication.
If you have a more severe dependence or are addicted to Ambien, you may need medical detox, which is overseen by medical professionals in a substance use treatment center or detox facility. If you have intense withdrawal symptoms or other medical concerns, they will be attended to 24-hours per day.
Depending on the severity of your addiction to Ambien, you may be admitted for inpatient treatment or attend intensive outpatient treatment programs after medical detox has ended. These treatment programs aim to help you learn new, healthy, and positive ways to manage the mental health ailments you may be struggling with utilizing modalities, such as cognitive behavior therapy and dialectical behavior therapy. Holistic modalities may also be beneficial for you.
Ambien is a prescription sedative that can lead to dependence and addiction, but it doesn’t have to. Reach out and let California Highlands Addiction Treatment help you stop Ambien abuse today.