What is Ambien?
Ambien is the more commonly-known brand name of zolpidem, a prescription sleep medication. Although many people who suffer from insomnia do find relief with Ambien, experts warn that people should not use Ambien as a permanent insomnia solution.
Patients should take Ambien for no more than six weeks while they pursue other, long-lasting forms of relief.
Ambien cannot serve as a permanent solution because it causes dependence. When a person adds Ambien to his or her nightly routine, this person will likely fall asleep more easily than before. However, after a few weeks, this person may find that the Ambien doesn’t work quite as well as it used to work. This phenomenon is called tolerance, and it’s what happens when a person’s body gets so used to a medication that he or she doesn’t notice the impact anymore. As a result, many people take larger and larger doses to achieve the original effect. This pattern leads to addiction, and those who suddenly quit taking Ambien after getting used to large doses often suffer from withdrawal.
Many people who take Ambien for sleep trouble and then try to stop abruptly will experience rebound insomnia, the most common Ambien withdrawal symptom. Like other withdrawal symptoms, rebound insomnia comes from tolerance and dependence. An individual who stops taking Ambien will likely experience the same insomnia that he or she had developed before taking the medication. Even worse, many find that their insomnia is more intense after stopping Ambien than it was before they started taking Ambien in the first place. Rebound insomnia is horribly frustrating, and a lot of people resort to taking Ambien again to get relief from the symptoms.
About 330,000 people misused Ambien and similar drugs in 2014.
Other Withdrawal Symptoms
Ambien comes with other withdrawal symptoms as well, and these symptoms can begin fairly soon after one stops taking Ambien. Some drugs have a long half-life, meaning that they can stay inside a person’s body for a long time after consumption. Withdrawal for these drugs may not start for several days or even weeks after a person quits. A former meth user, for example, might not enter the withdrawal phase for over a month after quitting. Ambien, in contrast, has a half-life of only a few hours. It leaves the bloodstream quickly, which means that an individual who stops Ambien may experience withdrawal in 48 hours or less. Sometimes, withdrawal symptoms appear in less than one day. After quitting Ambien, a person may experience any of the following withdrawal symptoms:
- Cravings for Ambien
- Anxiety and panic
- Irritability and mood swings
Every person’s body is different, so each person will experience withdrawal in different ways. While some people may experience every symptom on this list, others may only notice a few symptoms, and still others may deal with symptoms that are not included on the list at all. Because withdrawal can be unpredictable, the safest way to deal with it is to seek medical care.
If withdrawal has kept a person from quitting Ambien, there are treatment options available. First, a person quitting Ambien may want to seek out medical detox. When one detoxes from Ambien or any other drug, he or she has the option of doing so in a medical facility. These facilities provide several advantages over trying to detox without help. First of all, a person in a detox program will be far less likely to relapse during withdrawal. Second, many of these facilities use a “tapering off” method, helping the patient to cut back on Ambien gradually until they no longer need the drug at all. This method can ease the discomfort of withdrawal, and the medical supervision provides an extra layer of safety.
The patient’s doctor might also recommend rehabilitation if the dependence has turned into an addiction. An inpatient facility will provide a short-term program (30 to 90 days). During this program, the patient lives in the facility and learns how to address the physical and psychological causes of addiction. An outpatient facility provides the same care, but the patient lives at home during treatment. These programs tend to last longer than inpatient programs, but they do provide less structure. Each option has its own benefits and setbacks, and an addicted person should choose the program that best matches his or her needs and personality.