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Ambien Addiction, Withdrawal, Side Effects, Alternatives, Tapering

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Medically Reviewed

Last Updated on August 3, 2021 by Chris Weatherall

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Michael Loes MD

Ambien withdrawal is more than just getting off the drug … it’s being able to sleep afterward. Ambien side effects can worsen over time so dramatically that physicians are strongly cautioned not to prescribe it for more than a three- to a four-week period at most.

Tranquilizers, like Ambien, can be more than just “an addiction.” Finding sleep relief without them is obviously a large concern.

Do Your Symptoms
Require Ambien?

successful ambien withdrawal
Alternative to Meds has been navigating sedative withdrawal for more than 15 years. We have published evidence regarding our success. Some people can eliminate Ambien dependence seemingly easily with proper holistic support. The more complicated cases are typically neurotoxic, which forces them into fight or flight (sympathetic overdrive). We specialize in holistic repair and cleaning up that toxic burden so that the neurochemistry can regulate. The success of this approach is far more sustainable without the complicating side-effects of drugging the problem.
You probably already are aware of the spiral this drug can cause. The sleep at night is not really sleep, and the zombie-like depersonalization that comes with the drug is unbearable.
The video here about neurochemistry was designed for a benzodiazepine conversation, but much of the material applies to Ambien as well. Feel free to call us to get hope about your situation.

Ambien (zolpidem) is a powerful hypnotic sedative sleeping pill. The FDA and other regulatory bodies recommend slow tapering after as little as one or two weeks of use. Ambien withdrawal may require milder sedatives to avoid heart palpitations and other possible health complications.

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Ambien (zolpidem) is a powerful hypnotic, sedative, depressant drug that acts swiftly on the central nervous system to induce sleep by way of its “knockout” effect that induces unconsciousness. Some of the side effects of the drug can result in sleep disturbances, physical discomforts, mental distress, and in some instances bizarre and unpredictable reactions.

According to regulatory body recommendations in the US and the UK, the drug should only be prescribed for a very limited time to prevent addiction or dependence. The “knockout” effect diminishes over time, which can result in a prolongation of sleep deprivation and other negative consequences.1

Ambien, and many other drugs, cross the placental barrier and should not be used by nursing mothers.5

When using Ambien, all other CNS depressants including alcohol should be avoided due to their additive psychomotor impairments.3
Coming off the drug without help or proper instruction can be especially difficult, as will be discussed further in the topics outlined below. Always thoroughly research a drug before starting or stopping a prescription.

What Is Ambien Used for?

Ambien is most frequently used in a therapeutic context for the short-term treatment of insomnia. Sleep deprivation can cause many health problems, including neurocognitive consequences.

Quite apart from the intended medical or therapeutic uses, Ambien has been used as a date-rape drug because of its fast onset and profound memory-obfuscating characteristics. Ambien is also hard to detect on a drug test and is colorless, odorless and tasteless, and easily dissolves in alcohol, making it easy to slip into another’s drink surreptitiously. The unsuspecting victim will not remember much, if any, of what has happened, making a court conviction against the rapist or other perpetrator much harder to obtain.

Ambien Alternative Names and Slang

Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo, and Zolpimist are all trade names for the generic drug which is called zolpimed, also named zolpimed tartrate. Ambien CR and zolpimed ER are the time-release versions of this medication.

Ambien Side Effects

Ambien side effects can worsen over time so dramatically that physicians are strongly cautioned by the FDA in the US and by the counterpart of the FDA in the UK not to prescribe sleeping aids such as Ambien for more than a three- to four-week period at most. Recommended doses have also been lowered, due to new findings concerning the intense and sometimes bizarre side effects of Ambien, especially when taken at higher doses. Drugmakers have been directed to put additional black box warnings on the packaging, indicating the risks of certain side effects of Ambien.1

Some of Ambien’s side effects to be cautious of:

  • Suicidal Ideation – note, the FDA recommends prescribing the least amount possible to avoid intentional suicide.
  • Severe Anaphylactic and Anaphylactoid Reactions
  • Abnormal Thinking and Behavioral Changes, i.e., hallucinations, sleep-driving, etc.
  • Rebound Insomnia:  Patients get prescribed Ambien most often as a fast-acting sleep aid. After a short time, however, there is a lessening of the “knockout” effect, where the patient may awaken after an hour or two and be unable to fall back asleep.
  • Vertigo:  Dizziness, as in a sensation where the room is spinning, a common side effect of Ambien, which can produce an uncomfortable transition to a sleep state. Vertigo can also induce a disturbing waking sensation, which can occur at random times, especially for the extended-release version, which may cause these effects during one’s next workday or while driving or operating machinery.
  • Ataxia:  A condition resembling drunkenness caused by a toxic reaction to medications like Ambien, presents as slurred speech, inability to control voluntary muscles, or an inability to walk without stumbling, difficulty holding or controlling objects in the hand, such as eating utensils, unable to control the body (see DATE RAPE information).
  • Tachycardia:  Racing heart even though at rest, also heart palpitations, or increased blood pressure.
  • Urticaria:  Hives, raised itchy welts, rashes, can impact the airway which can also present as breathing difficulty.
  • Headache
  • Abdominal Disturbances:  These are common on Ambien including loss of appetite, diarrhea, flatulence, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, hiccups, acid reflux, and heartburn.
  • Urinary Tract Infections:  And, dryness of the vaginal walls are common side effects for women taking Ambien.
  • Flu-Like Symptoms:  These can include sinusitis, throat infections, sore throat, chest pain, respiratory infection, fever, confusion, tinnitus, fatigue.
  • Asthenia:  A sudden loss of physical strength or sudden sensation of overall weakness.
  • Amnesia:  Chunks of time may be missing entirely, or memories may be scrambled and partially obscured for a period of time.
  • Somnambulism:  The phenomenon of combined wakefulness and sleep which presents as sleepwalking, sleep-driving, sleep-shopping, sleep-cooking, and so on, which the person will typically have no recollection of.
  • Depression, Worsened Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood Swings
  • Body Aches:  Especially of the neck, back, arthralgia (aching joints), myalgia (aching muscle or groups of muscles).
  • Nightmares

Ambien Withdrawal Symptoms

Ambien is a drug that may require inpatient care for proper recovery and safe tapering. Full monitoring of someone who is experiencing Ambien withdrawals is highly recommended, sometimes requiring 24/7 observation.

Ambien withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Seizures
  • Rebound Insomnia *
  • Panic Attacks, anxiety, depression
  • Crying Spells
  • Heart Palpitations, tachycardia, high blood pressure
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Vomiting/Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Tremors
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fever
  • Cramps

*According to,  rebound insomnia occurs when sleep problems worsen when coming off sleeping pills.

Discontinuing/Quitting Ambien

One should not continue taking Ambien for longer than is recommended in medical literature and the FDA label.1

Even after as little as a week or two, Ambien withdrawal symptoms can emerge and can be problematic. Always seek competent medical advice, guidance, and support for monitoring the process of tapering off Ambien safely.

Ambien FAQs

There is much to learn about a drug that is as unpredictable and powerful as Ambien. Some of the most common questions are covered briefly below. We can provide more information by request on any of these or other important topics.

How Many Hours of Sleep Do You Need for Ambien? How Long Does Ambien Last?

Do not take Ambien if you are not able to stay at rest for at least seven or eight hours after taking the drug, as the sedating effects will last at least that long, and can sometimes linger beyond that time frame, into the next day.

Ambien has a very short half-life of only one to two hours. The active ingredient in Ambien, zolpidem, will reach peak blood levels, after an exceptionally short time, approximately thirty minutes. It is strongly recommended to take Ambien only immediately prior to retiring.

The reason it is so hard to detect Ambien on a drug test is that the drug is unlikely to show up as present in the body after as short a time as one or two days. A urine test may read positive if done within one or two days; however, testing done on a hair sample could be a more reliable method, sometimes showing a positive reading for up to or longer than 90 days.

Is Ambien a Benzodiazepine?

No. Ambien is classified as a hypnotic, depressant, or sedative. Benzodiazepines are described as tranquilizers and have a sedating effect. They do share some but not all of the same side effects. Both Ambien and benzos are associated with a risk for abuse because of their euphoric effects.

Benzodiazepine drugs are also sometimes prescribed for insomnia, but these two types of drugs act on the central nervous system and brain in different ways. There are certain GABA receptors that Ambien acts on such as the alpha-1 subclass, where benzodiazepines act upon subunits of the GABA alpha-1, alpha-2, alpha-3, and other classes. The fine wiring of the brain is a complex matter. We can observe that Ambien and benzodiazepines are similar, but not entirely the same in the effects produced. For instance, both benzodiazepines and Ambien affect sleep, but the benzodiazepine class additionally produces anti-anxiety effects.2

Treatment for Ambien Addiction & Abuse

There is a high risk of acquiring a dependency on sleeping aids such as Ambien as they are habit-forming. One of the common side effects of the drug is interrupted sleep, even when taking the drug as prescribed, which may lead to taking additional doses, or taking it for a longer time than is recommended. Impaired memory is another factor that can lead to dependence, i.e., not remembering if or when one took the drug, leading to overuse.

ambien withdrawal side effectsSince one of the withdrawal effects of Ambien is rebound insomnia, this problem of lack of sleep can become a problematic, repeating loop, especially without proper protocols in place for tapering. There are many reasons one may decide to stop taking a drug like Ambien. The side effects of the drug can be debilitating to the extreme and this can happen after a relatively short time of taking the drug.

However, it is possible to find the help that is needed for safely accomplishing Ambien withdrawal. At Alternative to Meds Center, we are committed to finding the root problems with sleep that led to prescribing a sleeping pill in the first place. We have much information to offer on request about the comprehensive treatments available in our program for recovering from insomnia, and from the negative effects that were caused or aggravated by dependence on sleeping aids.

A healthy vibrant state includes being able to sleep soundly and restfully, which provides adequate energy for successful day to day living. Alternative to Meds Center can provide Ambien alternatives and the means to help you overcome the challenges that may have impacted your life negatively. There is hope for a safe recovery, restored health, and optimal living. Alternative to Meds Center offers Ambien withdrawal so life can be lived well, and without further dependence on drugs like Ambien.

1. FDA label Ambien

2. “FDA Requires stronger warnings about rare but serious incidents related to certain prescription insomnia medications” FDA news release issued 2019 Apr 30 [cited 2020 Feb 18]

3. Wilkinson CJ, “The abuse potential of zolpidem administered alone and with alcohol.” Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1998 May;60(1):193-202. doi: 10.1016/s0091-3057(97)00584-4. PMID: 9610942. [cited 2020 Dec 10]

4. Sleep Advisor authors, “How Do You Get Off Sleeping Pills – Symptoms and What to Expect.” June 7, 2020 [cited 2020 Dec 10]

5. Reichner C, “Insomnia and sleep deficiency in pregnancy.” Obstet Med 2015 Dec; 8(4): 168-171 [published onlin 2015 Sept 21) doi: 10.1177/1753495X15600572 PMID 27512475 [cited 2020 Dec 10]

Originally Published Oct 2, 2018 by Lyle Murphy, Founder

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Michael Loes, M.D.


Dr. Michael Loes is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Pain Management and Addiction Medicine. He holds a dual license in Homeopathic and Integrative Medicine. He obtained his medical doctorate at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 1978. Dr. Loes performed an externship at the National Institute of Health for Psychopharmacology. Additionally, he is a well-published author including Arthritis: The Doctor’s Cure, The Aspirin Alternative, The Healing Response, and Spirit Driven Health: The Psalmist’s Guide for Recovery. He has been awarded the Minnesota Medical Foundation’s “Excellence in Research” Award.

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Ambien Addiction, Withdrawal, Side Effects, Alternatives, Tapering
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