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..News reports began to surface last week concerning a rather bizarre phenomenon referred to as “Ambien sleepwalking” in which people find themselves in a virtual “Twilight Zone” caused by overdoses of the sleep medication Ambien (zolbidem).
According to Liddicoat, drivers under the influence of unusually high doses of Ambien have crashed their cars and then had absolutely no memory of the accident. The sleeping pill apparently continued to impair drivers even after they have attempted to sleep off the effects.
The pattern involves taking the drug and not sleeping, or taking more than the recommended dose. Some drivers, for example, got up and drove in the middle of the night, while others, who planned to go to sleep as soon as they got home, took the drug before driving.
The Ambien Driver
The officer pulls the driver over for erratic driving (or there may even have been an accident) and when he or she steps from the car, the person acts like he's drunk, staggering and disoriented. He stares vacantly at the officer, like he doesn't know what's going on.
And he doesn't know what's going on. When his blood is tested, it contains, not alcohol, but ambien. He may be arrested, tested for alcohol and drug use, spend the night in jail - and, upon awakening, not remember a thing about the entire episode.
Sleepwalk to the Kitchen
A second disorder being linked to ambien is sleepwalking with the added problem of sleep eating. A recent study, reported in the Journal of Sleep Medicine reports on an evaluation of patients with underlying sleep disorders who were prescribed ambien. The study suggested that use of ambien in these people may lead to frequent arousals and could cause or augment sleep eating disorder.
Several course cases have been brought to court linked to ambien use and sleep eating disorder and dozens of people have reported involvement in traffic accidents, sleepwalking, hallucinations and bizarre behavior while taking the drug.
The most prescribed sleep medication in the United States may be linked to episodes of sleepwalking and related strange and dangerous behaviors, experts say -- including incidents of nocturnal eating, phone conversations, shoplifting and even driving -- of which the subject has no memory.