How To Wean Off Ambien: Ambien Taper Schedule

Last Updated: December 13, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Experts recommend tapering off Ambien at an appropriate rate to help reduce unpleasant or even dangerous side effects when stopping the medication.

Ambien is the brand name for zolpidem, a prescription medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a short-term treatment for insomnia. It’s classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule IV controlled substance, meaning there’s a potential for abuse and addiction.

Article at a Glance:

  • Ambien is a prescription medication used to treat insomnia, but it is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance due to its potential for abuse and addiction.
  • Weaning off Ambien involves gradually reducing usage over time, but withdrawal symptoms can occur and may be uncomfortable or dangerous.
  • Tapering off Ambien is recommended for those who have used the medication for longer than recommended or need higher doses to fall asleep.
  • Weaning off Ambien can prevent withdrawal symptoms and reduce the likelihood of relapse, but it may be too difficult for those with moderate to severe addictions, who may require medical detox in a treatment center.
  • An Ambien taper schedule can help guide the gradual reduction of dosage, and it should be done under the supervision of a doctor.
  • Stopping Ambien can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which may include unpleasant side effects and can be worse for individuals who take high doses

If you believe you are addicted to Ambien, know that recovery is possible with the right treatment plan. Tapering or weaning off of Ambien involves reducing usage gradually over time; however, it is important to know that withdrawal effects may occur. These symptoms can be uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous. Although in some cases weaning off Ambien may be possible at home, the safest way to taper off Ambien, particularly for moderate to severe cases, is through a medical detox at an accredited rehabilitation facility.

Can You Quit Ambien Cold Turkey?

It may be possible to quit cold turkey for someone who has been using Ambien  for a short period of time at the recommended dose, which is 5 mg once daily for women and 5 to 10 mg once daily for men. However, even at these doses

As a rule of thumb, the higher the dose and the longer a person has been using Ambien, the more likely that person will experience withdrawal symptoms, which will make quitting cold turkey more difficult.

What Does It Mean To Wean or Taper off Ambien?

Weaning or tapering off Ambien means stopping drug usage gradually over time. Because Ambien can be habit-forming, people who use it in high doses or over a long period of time can experience unpleasant side effects known as withdrawal symptoms.

Gradually reducing one’s Ambien dosage and how often it’s used may reduce these symptoms to make quitting easier.

Benefits of Weaning off Ambien

Weaning off Ambien can be a good idea for anyone who has used the medication for longer than recommended, needs higher doses to fall asleep or uses it other than as prescribed. Those who do this, rather than quit cold turkey, are more likely to have milder withdrawal symptoms and thus successfully get off the drug.

In other words, weaning or tapering off Ambien can ease or prevent withdrawal reactions, reducing the likelihood of relapse.

However, it should be noted that people with moderate to severe addictions may find tapering off Ambien too difficult. In these cases, a medical detox in a treatment center may be necessary. There, the patient can detox under the supervision of medical professionals, who can provide around-the-clock care, monitor the patient’s condition and provide medication to manage withdrawal. This can minimize discomfort and prevent serious withdrawal effects.

Example of an Ambien Taper Schedule

It’s important to speak with your doctor if you plan to taper off Ambien. Your doctor will provide you with a personalized schedule for reducing the dosage and want you to check in frequently to monitor your progress and assess for any negative effects. An Ambien taper schedule may take different forms, depending on a variety of factors, including dosage and how long you have been taking the medication.

The following is an example of what an Ambien taper schedule may look like:

Ambien Taper Schedule for a Patient on 20 mg

Day 120 mg
Day 2Decrease dose by 5 mg15 mg
Day 5Decrease dose by 5 mg10 mg
Day 8Decrease dose by 5 mg5 mg
Day 11Discontinue medication contingent on patient progress

It is important to note that it may take longer to wean off Ambien, depending on how the patient is progressing. The taper may need to be adjusted and extended.

Side Effects of Stopping Ambien

Stopping Ambien may cause unpleasant side effects, even to those who use the drug as directed. However, the symptoms are typically worse for individuals who take high doses.

Stopping Ambien can lead to withdrawal, and these symptoms include:

  • Inability to sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty with speech
  • Stomach pain
  • Confusion
  • Seizures

Ambien has a half-life of two to three hours, meaning half of the medication will be out of your system by that time. Side effects from discontinuing Ambien occur within 48 hours from the last dose.

Some cases of heavy Ambien use may require medication to be administered to ease severe withdrawal symptoms. This may involve the use of a drug like Valium (diazepam) to manage these severe symptoms.

Ambien Withdrawal Severity Risk Factors

Risk factors that can influence the severity of an Ambien withdrawal include:

  • Length of Use: Those who have used Ambien for longer are more likely to have more severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Dosage Levels: Severe withdrawal symptoms, like delirium, are more likely in those who take Ambien at high doses.
  • Age: Older age is a risk factor for more severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Polysubstance abuse: According to one study, long-term alcohol use increased the chances of delirium during Ambien withdrawal.
  • Co-occurring physiological or mental health conditions: Those with clinical depression and other mental health conditions are more vulnerable to severe Ambien withdrawal.

You should consult your doctor before discontinuing use of Ambien, especially if you have one or more of these risk factors.

Benefits of Medical Detox for Weaning off Ambien

Weaning off Ambien can be difficult and unpleasant, and many people experience setbacks during the process, especially when trying to do it on their own. Medical detox treatment at a rehab center can provide crucial medical support to help someone dealing with a substance use disorder.

Our programs are supervised by compassionate, licensed professionals who will provide you and your family with the support you need during this time. Treatment generally begins with medical detox, followed by either inpatient or outpatient rehab, depending on the patient’s needs. We also offer care for most co-occurring mental health conditions.

Contact us today to speak with a representative who can answer any questions, discuss Ambien addiction treatment options, and help you get started on the path to recovery.

Sources

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U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency. “Drugs of Abuse: A DEA Resource Guide.” 2020. Accessed July 27, 2022.

Mattoo, Surendra K.; et al. “Zolpidem Withdrawal Delirium.” Indian Journal of Pharmacology, November 2011. Accessed July 27, 2022.

Weaver, Michael F. “Prescription Sedative Misuse and Abuse.” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, September 3, 2015. Accessed July 27, 2022.

Bouchette, Daniel; et al. “Zolpidem.” StatPearls, May 8, 2022. Accessed July 27, 2022.

Schifano, Fabrizio; et al. “An Insight into Z-Drug Abuse and Depende[…]verse Drug Reactions.” International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, February 5, 2019. Accessed July 27, 2022.

Danjou, P.; et al. “A comparison of the Residual Effects of […]2 h Before Awakening.” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, September 1999. Accessed July 27, 2022.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Highlights of Prescribing Information: Ambien.” February 2008. Accessed July 27, 2022.

Oxford University Press. “High-Dose Zolpidem Dependence and Detoxi[…]ptoms Using Diazepam.” International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, May 27, 2016. Accessed July 27, 2022.

Saberi, Mohsen; Heydari, Mostafa. “Zolpidem Dependence, Abuse and Withdrawal: A Case Report.” Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, November 2013. Accessed July 27, 2022.

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