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Ambien Withdrawal

No matter what substance a person is breaking an addiction to, going through withdrawals is an uncomfortable experience. Ambien withdrawal 

What Is Ambien?

Ambien–a brand-name for the drug zolpidem–is a sleep-inducing medication most often prescribed to people suffering from insomnia.  

Ambien is classified as a sedative-hypnotic that activates gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) neuroreceptors in the brain, slowing down nerve function. It is also considered a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. 

Ambien was initially developed as a non-addictive alternative to popular benzodiazepines such as Xanax. It later became apparent, however, that Ambien does, in fact, have addictive properties–it simply takes longer than benzos for an addiction to form.

Is Ambien Addictive?

Ambien has been proven to be quite addictive if taken for longer than intended. An Ambien prescription comes in two forms: an extended-release and a quick-release version. 

Both are intended to encourage and maintain sleep for one single use. In other words, taking Ambien today will likely have no impact on how well you sleep next week.

After approximately two weeks of continuous use, a user will start to become addicted to Ambien.

Ambien addiction can develop out of the perfectly reasonable desire to deal with insomnia and get some deep sleep. The issue arises when someone becomes dependent on Ambien to fall asleep every night. After approximately two weeks of continuous use, a person is at risk of their body becoming addicted to the drug.

The DEA categorizes Ambien as a Schedule IV drug which means it has a “low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence” but is still considered dangerous.

Ambien can quickly become a recreational addiction when anyone takes the drug outside of medical supervision. Usually they are doing this to try to experience an Ambien high.

Stages of Addiction

The stages of addiction can vary depending on the substance and individual. However, there is a lot of value in having a general understanding of how an addiction develops, as it can provide useful indicators. 

First Use: This is when the user “tries out” substance in order to see if they like the effects or not. This does not always lead to addiction. Some people, for example, try a drug and end up disliking its effects, leading them to avoid it. Interestingly, users who only partake in the drug every so often are also considered “first-users,” as they have not yet established a pattern of usage.

The danger of this stage is that it can be accomplished through legal means too. For example, an individual who receives prescribed opioids after a traumatic injury is experiencing the “first use” phase of addiction, even though it is in a medically-advised context.

Regular Use: A user will begin to exhibit patterns of usage. They may start to consistently consume a drug on the weekend, at parties, after work, or after specific stressful triggers such as being around an abusive individual. This is where the substance begins to become a habitual part of the individual’s life. 

The Risky Use Stage of addiction may result in driving while intoxicated or under the influence.

Risky Use: This stage will involve the user engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence, or as a means of obtaining the drug. This could include driving while intoxicated or under the influence. It might also involve theft as a way of paying for the addiction.

Substance Use Disorder: A substance use disorder (SUD) is a full-blow addiction. At this point, the individual cannot function without using the substance on a daily basis. They often show signs of floundering in their responsibilities such as holding a job or attending school. Some even become homeless. 

How Ambien Addiction Forms

For people who take Ambien, the case of legal use developing into an addiction is the scenario that presents the most likely danger. First use to deal with insomnia can very quickly turn into regular use as it becomes a nightly routine. 

Then, when their prescription runs out, they may feel the need to turn to illicit sources to attain sleep aids or other similar–even more potent–substances to prevent withdrawals. 

What Are Withdrawals?

Withdrawals can be described as the physical and mental effects caused by stopping the intake of a certain drug. 

During continued use of a drug, the body attempts to normalize the presence of the toxic substance in the body. Thus, immediately taking that substance away from the body will cause it to struggle to readjust to the absence of the drug. 

For example, skipping out on your morning cup of coffee can cause withdrawal symptoms like headaches and muscle pain due to the sudden lack of caffeine in the body.

The duration and effects of a withdrawal phase will depend on a person’s history of use with the drug as well as other factors, such as genetics and body composition. 

Ambien withdrawals typically occur 24-48 hours after the final dose. Symptoms of Ambien withdrawals include:

  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Cravings
  • Tremors
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Hot flashes
  • Rapid heartbeat 

Can Ambien Withdrawals Be Fatal?

Ambien withdrawals are not fatal, but they can be painfully unpleasant. Someone going through Ambien withdrawals will typically find that these symptoms decrease or resolve within 1-2 weeks. 

The first 3-5 days usually see the most intense effects, though psychological withdrawal symptoms have been known to continue for up to two weeks. 

Although most withdrawals are not fatal, they are a painful process of recovery.

In some rare cases,  insomnia, cravings, panic attacks, and other side effects can linger in an individual for months after ceasing use of Ambien. The more intense or longer-lasting effects can be greatly reduced by tapering usage under professional medical detox supervision. 

Getting Help

Attempting to detox from a SUD on your own is both dangerous and has a low likelihood of success, as withdrawals can be painful and be enough to convince some to avoid getting sober in the first place.

Though an unpleasant part of the recovery process, seeking help from experienced professionals can set you up for successful addiction recovery. If you or a loved one need help dealing with withdrawals, please contact us today.