Ambien withdrawal follows on from an addiction to this hypnotic non-benzodiazepine drug. The withdrawal may only last for a few weeks, but it can trigger some serious and even life threatening symptoms in that time and can lead to a very unpleasant experience over all, as we shall discover in this guide to Zolpidem withdrawals.
Rather worryingly, Zolpidem withdrawal has been compared to benzodiazepine withdrawal which is one of the most serious withdrawal symptoms. Abrupt cessation (going “cold turkey”) may lead to seizures, coma and death, as is the case with benzodiazepines like Valium. That’s why it is very important to taper off the drug and to consult your physician before you do.
It will help to reduce the withdrawal symptoms and make the transition from addiction to recovery smoother, but it will also ensure that the serious and life threatening ambien withdrawal symptoms are removed from the equation.
Ambien Withdrawal Symptoms
One of the most common ambien withdrawal symptoms and one that is to be expected in cases like this is rebound insomnia and anxiety. In other words: a return of the problems for which the drug was prescribed in the first place. This is why drugs like this should never be prescribed for long-term issues and should only be seen as a short-term fixe. Because even if they do work, the patient will be required to consume them regularly in order for them to continue working and once they stop then that insomnia will return and they will also experience a number of other withdrawal symptoms.
- Mood swings
- Abdominal pains
You will also likely feel intense cravings throughout. This is common with all addictions and is something that will likely remain throughout the withdrawal and even in the weeks and months that follow.
Ambien Withdrawal Timeline
The length of time that you will go through Zolpidem withdrawal is dependent on how much you have taken and how long you have taken it for, as well as your weight, age and health. Generally, you will be symptom free after 2 weeks, with the worst of the symptoms occurring between 3 and 5 days.
Of course, if you are going through a taper then it will be different. You will likely experience some minor side effects and these will be prolonged over the course of the withdrawal rather than taking you on a rollercoaster ride of emotional and physical ups and downs.
Ambien Withdrawal Cold Turkey
This is never a good idea. You might feel that you are strong enough to get through, but withdrawal can hit hard and unexpectedly and it can leave you in an emotionally and physically depleted state. What’s more, it will also trigger some potentially life threatening symptoms that you have no control over.
If you have only been using it for a few weeks then you shouldn’t have an issue going cold turkey. An addiction has yet to truly develop at this point and by going through a taper you are merely prolonging the amount of time you use the drug and allowing for more time for an addiction to develop.
If you have been using heavily for months or years, then cold turkey is definitely not recommended.
Does Ambien Cause Dementia?
There are some suggestions that Zolpidem can cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This is worrying for anyone who is taking the drug on a regular basis, but in truth there is no way of knowing whether this is true or not just yet.
The links that connect ambien use to dementia seem to revolve around its effect on memory and the things we know about drugs like Valium and Xanax. However, there is no research to back this up with any certainty and there are also suggestions that memory issues with ambien users could be caused by everything from sleep apnea to disturbed sleep patterns and fatigue.
The truth is, we don’t really know either way, but there is a good chance that ambien will have an impact on your ability to remember day-to-day things and there is a slight chance that it will increase your odds of getting dementia in later life.
How to Stop Taking Ambien
If you want to stop taking ambien then your first step should be to prepare for any rebound insomnia. If you manage to stop using the drug but spend the next few nights tossing and turning, it’s easy to go back to using it. You can talk with your doctor about this and they may prescribe a herbal remedy like valerian or a hormone like melatonin.
After that’s been addressed then you need to determine whether cold turkey (rarely advised) or a taper is the best course of action. If a taper is chosen then you just need to slightly reduce your dose every few days until you are no longer relying on ambien. It is commonly believed that the final step of going from a micro dose to nothing at all is the hardest part of a taper, but many former addicts who have been through this process say that the first step is actually the hardest and that by the time they have reached that final dose, they are more than prepared to stop using entirely.
Will Ambien Show up in a Drug Test?
The majority of standard drug tests will not be able to spot ambien. However, there are many drug tests out there that can test for it and detect it with ease. It all depends on the type of test being used, which in turn will likely depend on who is testing you. If you are an athlete being tested prior to a competition, then there is a good chance it will be detected. If you are an employee, then the test will likely be much simpler and may not detect the Zolpidem.
You can learn more about the different types of drug tests on our extensive drug testing guide. We also have a page on hair follicle drug testing where we take a look at the most accurate and long-lasting form of drug testing.
Ambien and Pregnancy
One of the biggest dangers of ambien addiction is during pregnancy, when risk is amplified and you need to be very careful in general. It is generally not recommended for women who are pregnant and should therefore be avoided.