What is Zolpidem? The drug is a non-Benzodiazepine, or ‘z-drug’, prescribed to treat insomnia.
Zolpidem falls into the class of sedative-hypnotic drugs and is intended for short-term use. It’s sold under several brand names, including Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo, and Zolpimist.
Ambien was originally designed to be just as medically effective as benzodiazepines (such as Xanax) without the same habit-forming potential. However, while it often takes longer for people to form a dependence on this medication, studies have shown that zolpidem is still an addictive substance with similar abuse potential to benzos.
Because the makers of Ambien originally touted the drug as a safer, less addictive alternative to benzos, many don’t realize the true addiction potential of zolpidem.
While Ambien is prescribed for short-term use only, users often become mentally and/or physically dependent on the drug to fall and stay asleep. Some people who take prescription zolpidem go on to suffer from ‘rebound insomnia’, in which their insomnia actually worsens and they can no longer sleep without using it.
What are the Effects of Zolpidem?
The main effect of zolpidem is to induce sleepiness. There are two main forms of this medication: a quick-release version that helps you fall asleep more easily, and an extended-release version that also helps you stay asleep through the night.
Zolpidem works by activating a chemical in your brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The boost in GABA calms brain activity, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. More for the NHS.
There are several common side effects you may experience when using zolpidem:
- dry mouth and/or metallic taste in the mouth
- dizziness, lightheadedness, and/or confusion
- drowsiness, including daytime drowsiness
- upset stomach, diarrhoea, or constipation
- feeling ‘drugged’ or euphoric
Less frequently, you might experience more serious side effects such as:
- memory loss/hallucinations
- new or worsening depression
- suicidal ideation
Signs and Symptoms of Zolpidem Abuse
Abuse is characterised by a growing tolerance to the drug’s effectiveness and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you reduce your dosage or stop taking it.
Signs and symptoms of zolpidem abuse include:
- cravings/refilling prescriptions more frequently
- combining zolpidem with other substances
- repeatedly taking larger doses than prescribed
- engaging in dangerous activities while on zolpidem, such as driving
- experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to cut down or stop using
- buying the drug illegally
- isolating from loved ones and/or regularly sleeping through social events
It’s possible to form a physical dependence on zolpidem in as little as two weeks. Many cases of zolpidem addiction begin when insomnia sufferers have been prescribed the medication as a short-term treatment.
After a couple of weeks of use, zolpidem becomes less effective and you need higher doses in order to sleep.
You may find that your insomnia has worsened if you try to stop taking the medication, which is a sign of your body developing dependence.
Withdrawal and Detox from Zolpidem
Withdrawal symptoms typically start within 48 hours of stopping or cutting down use. These can include:
- a general agitation, irritability, mood swings
- anxiety and/or panic attacks
- mild to severe cravings
- nausea, vomiting, or stomach cramps
- insomnia or general restlessness
- fatigue and/or feeling disoriented
- rapid heart rate and breathing
- sweating and/or tremors
- seizures (in rare cases)
Medically assisted detox is strongly recommended for zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo, Zolpimist). Not only is detoxing on your own uncomfortable, but it can be dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms can be very difficult to manage without medical assistance and surrounding support, raising your chances of relapse.
During detox at Castle Craig, you’ll receive 24/7 care from our experienced, compassionate staff to ensure your comfort and safety through each step of the process.
Our team of medical specialists works together to create and oversee each patient’s personalised detoxification and treatment plan.
As part of this detox process, our team of doctors may choose to gradually decrease your dose for a more comfortable transition to complete abstinence. Other medications may be used to help ease the withdrawal symptoms as well.
Until you’re completely detoxed, our staff meets regularly to update your treatment plan according to your progress. Once you’re stabilised, you’ll be able to attend restorative therapies such as morning meditation and group sessions.
Zolpidem/Ambien withdrawal symptoms often lessen or disappear within one or two weeks, but they may last longer. For many, the most acute symptoms taper off after the first three to five days of detox. However, your exact detox timeline depends on a few factors:
- History of use: the longer you’ve been taking zolpidem, the greater potential there is for more severe withdrawal symptoms or a longer detox period.
- Dosage: many people build a tolerance to zolpidem and, consequently, take higher doses to get the same effect. If you’ve frequently taken more than prescribed, this can lead to more severe withdrawal symptoms or a longer detox period.
- Combining with other substances: some people may start to combine zolpidem with alcohol or other substances as their tolerance increases, to heighten its effects. If you stop all use at once, you can experience withdrawal from multiple substances at the same time, which can be highly dangerous and even fatal. This is one reason a medically assisted detox is strongly encouraged for your own safety.
After completing medically supervised detox, you’ll enjoy a seamless transition to our inpatient rehab programme. Our comprehensive approach to treatment supports those struggling with zolpidem addiction through each step of the recovery journey.
Our full daily schedule at Castle Craig includes individual counselling, group therapy, addiction education, relapse prevention coaching, and specialised therapy groups to address any underlying or co-occurring disorders (such as trauma, eating disorders, and/or depression).
- Each patient follows their own, individualised treatment plan that’s customised to their unique medical history and therapeutic needs.
- By following your recovery plan, eating nutritious meals, and getting plenty of rest and exercise, you’ll begin to regain your sense of balance and vitality.
- Over the course of our intensive treatment programme, you’ll learn healthy coping strategies to live a fulfilling life in which you feel well without the need to use zolpidem.
Through our integrated combination of evidence-based and complementary therapies, you’ll learn the skills you need to successfully step into life in recovery and manage triggers when they arise. You’ll also be able to recognise the mental and emotional root causes that led to your addiction in the first place and have plenty of opportunities to work through these in a highly supportive environment.
Patients receiving care for zolpidem addiction also receive mindfulness and relaxation therapy sessions designed to teach techniques for improving sleep quality without the use of drugs.
You’re also introduced to 12-Step Narcotics Anonymous, which provide a valuable resource for supporting your sobriety well after completing inpatient treatment.
Benefits of Residential Rehab
The inpatient rehab programme at Castle Craig is designed to make recovery from drug addiction as easy, safe, and successful as possible.
We operate our own specialised detox medical centre so you can begin the process of recovery under the care of trained professionals. This also makes your transition to residential care smoother, you can start attending therapeutic activities while in our detox centre, and no additional travel arrangements are required.
Once you begin inpatient treatment, you’ll take part in a structured routine of daily activities that lay a foundation for healthy, drug-free living. Residential rehab provides the highest level of supervision, support, and care available.
You also get to experience a variety of complementary therapies that address other aspects of your mental, physical and spiritual health.
In addition to high levels of personal attention from our team, you’ll also have the opportunity to connect with others in recovery who understand your experience and provide peer support throughout your treatment process.
Residential rehab gives you a chance to step away from a situation that’s become unmanageable, so you can heal and learn how to re-enter your life without the use of drugs.
At Castle Craig, you spend time away from old habits and patterns in a 50-acre stretch of beautiful, secluded woodlands that make it easier to cultivate peace of mind.
Addiction recovery is a lifelong journey. That’s why patients in our residential rehab programme receive ongoing support beyond their time at Castle Craig. You’ll have access to a variety of continuing care options, from attending one-on-one and group therapy sessions via Zoom to joining our annual Castle Craig reunion each year.
If you or someone you love is struggling with zolpidem/Ambien addiction, contact us now to learn how we can help.
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Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked January 14, 2022