Zolpidem is a prescription sleep medication that is sending more and more people to emergency rooms from its serious side effects. Never heard of Zolpidem? Well, I bet you’ve heard of Ambien. Zolpidem is the active ingredient in Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar and Zolpimist. But the most common among these is Ambien.
I’ve heard countless stories of people doing some pretty crazy things on Ambien – like sleepwalking into a 7-11 while in their pajamas. I’ve also heard some horrific stories about terrible nightmares and hallucinations from taking Ambien.
According to a new federal report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Drug Abuse Action Network (DAWN), from 2005-2010, visits to emergency rooms from the adverse side effects of Zolpidem increased by over 200 percent. The findings of this report are as follows:
- In 2010, there were 64,175 emergency-department visits involving zolpidem. Of these, 19,487 — or 30 percent — specifically involved adverse reactions to the sleep medication.
- In 2005, there were just 6,111 emergency-room visits involving adverse reactions to the sleep drug. During the period 2005-2010, emergency-department visits involving adverse reactions to zolpidem rose almost 220 percent.
- Women accounted for 68 percent of emergency-department visits related to adverse reactions to zolpidem in 2010. The differences between men and women fluctuated during the five-year period, but overall women made up a greater number of the zolpidem-related emergency visits in every year but 2008.
- The number of emergency room visits made by women involving adverse effects of zolpidem increased by 274 percent from 2005-2010. Visits by men increased 144 percent.
- Adults ages 45 and older accounted for 74 percent of all emergency room visits involving adverse reactions to zolpidem.
- Patients ages 65 and older were the most common age group to seek emergency treatment for adverse reactions to zolpidem – 32 percent.
- Patients ages 45-54 were the next largest group, accounting for 22 percent of all visits.
- Of the total visits to emergency room visits related to adverse effects of zolpidem, 40 percent involved the sleep drug alone.
- In 50 percent of the cases, one or more additional prescription drugs were involved.
- The most common prescription drugs seen in combination with zolpidem’s adverse effects included narcotic pain relievers, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and other insomnia medications.
- Research also has shown that older adults are at greater risk for adverse effects from sleep medications, including those containing zolpidem.
In January of this year, the Food and Drug Administration issued a Zolpidem safety alert and announced it would require drug makers to cut in half the recommended dosages of medications containing zolpidem for women. The agency also recommended lowering the dosages for men, and urged medical professionals to warn all patients taking zolpidem about potential side effects. Sleep medications that contain zolpidem should be prescribed on a short-term basis only in severe cases of sleep disorders.
Big Pharma has once again created a monster with medications containing zolpidem. And as usual, rather than treating the problem, American doctors prescribe these pills to alleviate the symptoms.