How to Quit Ambien

Kathleen Esposito
Sleeping Woman

Ambien, also known by its scientific name, Zolpidem, is classified as a "z-hypnotic" used to help people with insomnia. This drug is also known for having some dangerous side effects including sleepwalking and a potential for addiction. Getting off Ambien can be difficult. No one should quit taking Ambien cold turkey. You must come up with a plan beforehand.

Step One: Talk to Your Doctor

If you're taking Ambien with a doctor's prescription, speak with him or her about your desire to stop taking the drug. Remember, it is your right as a patient to discontinue any drug you no longer wish to take, regardless of the reason why. Your doctor can help you come up with a plan for tapering your doses. He or she may also assist you with brainstorming alternative solutions for dealing with your insomnia.

If you're taking Ambien without a prescription, it's still a good idea to speak with your doctor because of how serious withdrawal symptoms can be. The doctor should keep your addiction confidential.

Step Two: Start Tapering off the Drug

If your doctor gives you a tapering plan, follow that. If not, try this one, recommended by Matthew J. Edlund, M.D.:

  • Take your regular dose six days a week, and halve your dose on the seventh.
  • The following week, halve your dose on two days.
  • Continue the cycle until your dose is too small to reasonably be halved.
  • Begin eliminating the drug altogether, still starting with one day a week and going from there.

Slow down or speed up your taper depending on how you are feeling. The slower the taper, the less severe your withdrawal symptoms should be. Consult with your physician throughout the process.

Step Three: Manage Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms for Ambien users can be extreme. Symptoms are similar to those experienced by people detoxing from benzodiazepines. Since Ambien slows down the body's systems, an absence of Ambien can speed them up, leading to:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Shaking
  • Nightmares
  • Panic

A sudden stoppage of the drug can cause life-threatening seizures, which is why tapering is so important. Expect to be tired and fatigued during the day (due to lack of sleep) until your body adjusts to the decrease in Ambien, and plan your schedule accordingly.

Step Four: Find Alternatives

One of the biggest concerns for people trying to quit Ambien is that they will once again suffer from insomnia. That makes it important to seek out other remedies during the quitting process. Waiting until afterward may lead to a relapse on the drug.

If you can't seem to relax at night, perhaps counseling will help you calm your fears. Stress-reduction exercises, such as deep breathing and meditation, can help as well. Getting physical exercise during the day can help tucker you out at night. Try a variety of methods to help you fall asleep at night without Ambien to discover what works best for you.

Extra Help

While there are no specific recovery programs for Ambien addiction, groups such as Narcotics Anonymous may be helpful to you. This group accepts all individuals who are struggling with addiction. If you need additional resources, call the Drug Addiction Helpline at 1-877-748-3971.

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How to Quit Ambien