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Ambien Withdrawal & Detox

Ambien withdrawal symptoms can range from mildly uncomfortable to potentially life-threatening. If you take Ambien medically and become dependent, your withdrawal symptoms are likely to be mild compared to people who misuse this sleep aid or have an addiction to it. Ambien addiction and severe dependence can result in dangerous withdrawal symptoms like seizures.

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Ambien withdrawal may include uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures and withdrawal delirium.[1] Generally, Ambien withdrawal symptoms last about one week, though some symptoms may persist for longer. 

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Medical supervision is recommended for Ambien detox because of the risk of life-threatening effects. This not only ensures your safety throughout withdrawal but also increases the likelihood that you’ll actually complete Ambien withdrawal instead of relapsing back to use when symptoms get uncomfortable. And once you complete detox, you can then transition into a professional Ambien addiction treatment program.

What is Ambien?

Quick Answer

Ambien is the brand name for the sedative-hypnotic medication, zolpidem, that is prescribed to treat insomnia. This medication works by activating the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), reducing the ability for nerve cells to create and send chemical signals to one another. This produces a sedative effect that is conducive to falling and remaining asleep. However, extended use or abuse can cause physiological dependence and withdrawal symptoms.

Ambien Withdrawal Symptoms

Ambien withdrawal refers to the class of physical and psychological symptoms that accompany the discontinuation of Ambien use. Withdrawal occurs when the brain and body have become accustomed to the presence of this sleeping pill, and that substance is suddenly removed. 

A certain period of time is needed for the brain and body to adapt to the lack of that substance once again, such as by producing more GABA. This effect can result in a return of sleep-related issues and psychological challenges like stress and anxiety. 

When you abruptly stop taking zolpidem, especially if you’ve been abusing it or have an addiction, you may experience the following Ambien withdrawal symptoms: [1],[2],[3],[4]

  • Insomnia
  • Dysphoria
  • Nervousness and anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Cramping in the stomach
  • Sweating and flushing
  • Irritability
  • Tremors and shakiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Panic attacks
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

In rare cases, someone withdrawing from Ambien may develop seizures or delirium, which can be life-threatening symptoms.[4],[5] This is more likely to occur if you are misusing Ambien to get high and have a severe dependence and addiction. Because of this risk, medical supervision is always needed for Ambien detox.

Because of the risk of seizures and withdrawal delirium, medical supervision is strongly recommended for Ambien detox.

How Long Does Ambien Withdrawal Last?

Ambien’s half-life is about three hours, which means it is a short-acting sedative-hypnotic. Withdrawal from short-acting sedatives like Ambien comes on more quickly and has a shorter timeline than immediate-acting or long-acting medications. 

Ambien withdrawal symptoms may appear within 6-8 hours after you stop taking the medication. Symptoms may peak on day two and improve by the fifth day. It may take about a week or so for withdrawal symptoms to fully resolve.[4]

The length of time you will experience withdrawal symptoms following the discontinuation of use will depend on many factors as well as your approach to stopping Ambien use. If you quit suddenly (cold turkey), symptoms will likely be more severe initially, but they will not last as long as if you were to gradually taper from Ambien use. 

Most doctors will recommend a gradual tapering approach to stopping use since this can prevent intense withdrawal symptoms. While symptoms may be experienced for a longer duration, they are less severe and considerably more manageable than if someone stops use suddenly. 

There is also a much lower risk of relapse with a tapered detox approach.

Ambien Withdrawal Timeline

Time Since Last UseSymptom Manifestation
6-8 hoursAmbien withdrawal symptoms emerge
1-2 daysSymptoms peak in intensity
4-5 daysSymptoms begin to improve
1 week or soSymptoms may resolve or dissapear

Day 1

Ambien is a short-acting medication, so its effects are felt quickly, and the body also processes it out quickly. Because of this, Ambien withdrawal symptoms can begin within as few as six to eight hours after the last dose. During this period, you may begin to experience symptoms like anxiety or shakiness, and it may be difficult to fall and remain asleep. [4]

Days 2

Ambien withdrawal symptoms tend to peak on the second day following the last use of Ambien. During this period, you may experience insomnia as your body adjusts to regain a sense of homeostasis. [4]

It is during this period that symptoms will likely be at their most severe. To avoid these strong symptoms, a structured tapering schedule and medical supervision may be needed if you have been using Ambien for an extended period of time and/or in high doses. 

Days 4 or 5

Withdrawal symptoms will likely begin to improve after approximately five days. This may look like a reduction in anxiety or tremors or you may no longer feel nauseated. [4]

Days 6 or 7

Within one week or so, Ambien withdrawal symptoms should resolve completely. Some symptoms may linger or last for weeks or months following Ambien withdrawal. These are known as protracted withdrawal symptoms. [6]

You may also experience rebound symptoms, which means your previous symptoms like insomnia return, some of which may be more intense than prior to Ambien use.[6]

What Factors Influence the Severity and Length of Ambien Withdrawal?

Many factors influence the severity and length of Ambien withdrawal, including:

  • How long you’ve been taking Ambien
  • How much Ambien you regularly take
  • Whether you misuse Ambien
  • Method of administration (e.g. snorting or injecting it)
  • Age
  • Individual physiology
  • Previous withdrawal experiences
  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Whether you mix Ambien with alcohol or other substances

Ambien Detox Treatment and Withdrawal Management

Because Ambien withdrawal can be distressing and potentially dangerous, it’s not safe to quit on your own at home. The safest setting for withdrawal from sedative-hypnotics like Ambien is medical detox.

Medical detox involves 24-hour medical care, supervision, and monitoring in order to manage Ambien withdrawal symptoms, prevent complications, and intervene in the case of a medical emergency. Medical detox typically occurs in a hospital-like setting or psychiatric hospital. It may also occur in an inpatient free-standing detox center that offers around-the-clock medical treatment.

Benefits of medical detox for Ambien withdrawal include:

  • 24-hour care
  • A gradual tapering schedule to reduce the risk of complications
  • Supportive care, such as IV fluids
  • Detox counseling 
  • Case management services

There are no FDA-approved medications for the management of Ambien withdrawal. However, the medical team will create a tapering schedule for you, in which they slowly wean you off the medication over a predetermined period of time. This allows your body to gradually adjust to lower doses of Ambien so you don’t experience intense and dangerous withdrawal symptoms. This may take a few weeks, depending on the doctor or schedule.

Sleep Hygiene

If you have been taking Ambien as a sleep aid, you’ll need to introduce other practices into your life that support restful sleep. Here are some sleep hygiene tips:[7]

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. While it can be tough at first, your body should eventually adapt to the routine.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. Your body will be more likely to get restful sleep if the environment is conducive to sleep.
  • Avoid screens for at least an hour before bedtime. This means no television, computers, or smartphone use. Melatonin is disrupted by light from devices.
  • Expose yourself to bright, natural light within an hour or two of waking. This will help to set your body’s natural clock. 
Profile image for Dr. Alison Tarlow
Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated March 7, 2024
  1. Zolpidem U.S. National Library of Medicine. November 2019.
  2. Ambien. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2007.
  3. Ambien. U.S. Federal Drug Administration. 2022.
  4. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Association. (2013).
  5. Zolpidem Dependency and Withdrawal Seizure: A Case Report Study. (November 2014). Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal.
  6. Acute and Persistent Withdrawal Syndromes Following Discontinuation of Psychotropic Medications. (August 2020). Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.
  7. Tips for Circadian Sleep Health While Working From Home. (April 2020). Southwest Journal of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep.
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