Ambien (Zolpidem) Addiction and Treatment Options

Ambien is a prescription sedative that is used to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders. When prescribed by a doctor, Ambien should only be taken with enough time to get a full night’s sleep. The drug has shown to be habit-forming and has the potential for abuse and withdrawal.

What is Ambien?

Ambien (Zolpidem) is a sedative-hypnotic that was originally designed as an alternative to benzodiazepines that produced less adverse side effects. The medication has a deeply calming effect and induces drowsiness to help people fall asleep. This function can be very effective for those who suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Though it is considered safer than benzodiazepines and less likely to result in prolonged grogginess in the morning, Ambien still has a high potential for addiction and abuse. Long-term use can also lead to health problems like respiratory issues and reflux. Use of Ambien has also been associated with potentially dangerous sleep behaviors like sleep-walking that can lead to injury.

Is Ambien Addictive?

Ambien’s potential for addiction was underestimated when it was first released, but it has since become a controlled Schedule IV substance according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). It’s classification as a Schedule IV drug means it has a low risk of abuse and dependence while still being federally regulated.

When taken as prescribed by a doctor, it’s unlikely that use of Ambien would lead to addiction. However, excessive or prolonged use can lead to tolerance and withdrawal. Studies have shown that Ambien produces serious withdrawal symptoms if discontinued suddenly. Medically supervised withdrawal can help alleviate these symptoms.

Signs of Ambien (Zolpidem) Abuse and Addiction

If used as directed, Ambien use rarely becomes problematic, but addiction can begin with easy-to-miss behaviors. If you or a loved one are showing various signs of Ambien addiction, it may be time to seek help. These behaviors include:
  • Lying or doctor shopping to obtain Ambien prescriptions
  • Combining Ambien with alcohol or other drugs
  • Excessive time and effort spent trying to obtain Ambien, like buying it illegally or forging prescriptions
  • Using Ambien every night against medical advice
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit
  • Powerful and persistent cravings
  • Use that has a detrimental effect on work, home, or other responsibilities

Side Effects Of Ambien addiction

Even when taken as prescribed, Ambien has the potential for some side effects. The likelihood and severity of side effects are compounded when the medication is taken more frequently or at higher doses than prescribed. These side effects may include:
  • Loss of energy or motivation
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Confusion
  • Indigestion
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Abnormal dreams and other sleep behavior
  • Allergic reactions

It may be necessary to consult with your doctor if one or more side effects are present.

Ambien (Zolpidem) Withdrawal

Withdrawal from Ambien typically begins 1-2 days after dosage has been discontinued or significantly reduced. Symptoms will vary in severity according to how long and how much Ambien the body was accustomed to. These symptoms include:
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Delirium
  • Aggressiveness
  • Increased blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tremors
  • Seizure

Less Addictive Alternatives to Ambien

Though Ambien has proven effective at treating sleep disorders, the medication only alleviates the uncomfortable sleep symptoms but does nothing to treat underlying conditions that may be the cause of the sleep disturbances. Various forms of therapy may be more effective at treating disorders that cause insomnia or restlessness without carrying the risk of addiction.

Sleep Restriction Therapy

Sleep restriction therapy is designed to limit the time spent in bed to decrease periods of prolonged awakenings in the middle of the night. The therapy involves initially shortening the time spent in bed to the average time the person sleeps with no flexibility to sleep in or catch up on sleep. For instance, if a person has to wake up at 7 am, but they sleep an average of 6 hours a night, they would be required to go to bed at 1 am. This restriction increases tiredness for a couple of days but ensures that the person spends more time sleeping in bed instead of tossing and turning.


When insomnia becomes an ongoing problem, sufferers may develop an maladaptive or negative association with their bed or bedroom. For instance, they may perceive it as a place of frustration or failure to relax. To overcome this, reconditioning therapy uses principles of classical conditioning to change these associations. This requires individuals to move to another room and engage in another activity like reading or watching TV when they’re having trouble sleeping. That way, they only get in bed when they’re truly sleepy and the bed becomes more closely associated with that feeling.

Relaxation Techniques

Many exercises used to treat anxiety or in practices like yoga can help induce a feeling of relaxation and sleepiness. These include mindfulness, deep breathing, or visualizing peaceful and relaxing scenarios or settings. If insomnia is caused by excessive worry, frustration, or anxiety, these relaxation techniques may be a powerful tool to naturally alleviate sleep problems without the use of medication.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Sleep disorders can sometimes be the result of other underlying mental health disturbances like depression or anxiety. As a result, treating the underlying mental illness can improve a person’s sleep quality. CBT aims to refocus behavior and thought to eliminate problematic patterns that can underlie and maintain mental illness.

Stopping Ambien Use Safely

Ambien use and withdrawal can bring about many adverse side effects. Because of this, it’s important to seek medical advice when discontinuing Ambien use, particularly use that is problematic. Withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and uncomfortable and make it more likely that individuals will start using again to avoid them.

Supervised medical detox can help safely reduce the amount of Ambien in one’s system to limit the severity of withdrawal. Doctors typically recommend gradually reducing dosage instead of quitting cold turkey. At a drug abuse treatment center, this process is supervised by doctors and nurses round-the-clock to ensure comfort, safety, and reduce the likelihood of relapse.

Ambien Addiction Recovery

Since Ambien has an important function that allows users to get sufficient sleep, treatment for Ambien addiction typically involves management of sleep disorders without the use of medication. After detox, addiction treatment will typically focus on uncovering triggers and situations that worsen symptoms of insomnia and identifying coping skills that can help. In addition to therapeutic skills, treatment will help develop healthier habits like going to sleep at the same time every night, avoiding stimulating activities before bed, or limiting caffeine use.

Ambien addiction may also be tied to other mental disorders. For instance, individuals with undiagnosed and untreated anxiety disorders may abuse Ambien for its calming effects. Therapy can help identify and treat these underlying issues. Using a multifaceted approach, addiction treatment can target social, psychological, and other practical facets to achieve long-lasting sobriety.

Ambien FAQs

What are the risks of taking Ambien on a long-term basis for a sleeping problem?

Long-term use of Ambien is associated with many detrimental effects including: digestive issues, tiredness and fatigue, anxiety, nightmares, dizziness, lack of muscle control, depression, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms. These may come to affect various aspects of life such as employment, relationships ,and social life.

How long does it take to detox from Ambien?

Safe detox from Ambien can take up to a week, depending on the severity of the addiction. If Ambien has been taken excessively and for extended periods, the withdrawal period may be prolonged, making it more difficult to complete without supervision. An addiction specialist or sleep specialist may help transition to life without Ambien.

What medications, other than Ambien, can treat insomnia?

Some over-the-counter sleep aids and other medications like Benadryl are sometimes used to treat insomnia. However, these may come with their own side effects or include active ingredients that are not necessary. Herbal teas and other natural remedies may help. However, the safest treatment is therapy to eliminate the possibility for addiction.


DEA. 10 July, 2018. Drug Scheduling.

Food and Drug Administration. (2014). Ambien CR Label.

Victorri-Vigneau C, Dailly E, Veyrac G, Jolliet P. Evidence of zolpidem abuse and dependence: results of the French Centre for Evaluation and Information on Pharmacodependence (CEIP) network survey. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2007 Aug;64(2):198-209. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2007.02861.x. Epub 2007 Feb 23. PMID: 17324242; PMCID: PMC2000636.

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2015). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No 45. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4131. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.

Ambien Addiction Recovery at Riverwalk Ranch

A Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Area Addiction Treatment Center

At Riverwalk Ranch, we take an individualized and research-based approach to treating Ambien addiction and other prescription drug abuse. Our addiction professionals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area use a variety of effective cutting-edge interventions to help individuals recover from addiction and other co-occurring disorders. Treatment is tailored according to individual needs to promote healthier habits and overall well-being.

If Ambien addiction or abuse is affecting your daily life, contact us today at (877) 863-3869 to see how we can help. Our Texas addiction treatment center can provide you a fresh start away from the people and places that enable addiction. In the serenity of the ranch, you can get the round-the-clock care and support you need to get back to a healthy and addiction-free lifestyle.

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