Dangers Begin to Surface for Sleep Drugs
> 3/14/2006 12:38:35 PM

Two New York Times articles in the past week have thrown a great deal of negative attention by way of the popular sleep supplement Ambien. The drug, produced by the French company Sanofi-Aventis, has seen sales take off over the last five years. But now many are worrying that this increase in users may begin to expose previously unknown side-effects of the drug.

The first of these NYT pieces appeared on the 8th, and it detailed the recent surge in Ambien related driving incidents. In many toxicology labs, Ambien is now showing up as one of the most common substances involved in DWI stops. Even more frightening however, is that many of those who have been cited by police, often after accidents or wildly erratic driving, have no memory of their actions. They are, it would seem, sleep-driving.

As the Times reports, Sanofi-Aventis has known about potential problems:
Ambien's maker, Sanofi-Aventis, says the drug's record after 13 years of use in this country shows it is safe when taken as directed. But a spokeswoman, Melissa Feltmann, wrote in an e-mail message, "We are aware of reports of people driving while sleepwalking, and those reports have been provided to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as part of our ongoing postmarketing evaluation about the safety of our products."

A spokeswoman for the F.D.A. said the drug's current label warnings, which say it should not be used with alcohol and in some cases could cause sleepwalking or hallucinations, were adequate. "People should be aware of that," said the spokeswoman, Susan Cruzan.

The topic of the second Times article regarding Ambien, while certainly not as potentially fatal as sleep driving, is nonetheless, a major concern for those effected. A forthcoming paper by Dr. Mark Mahowald, who is director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Minneapolis, will detail how Ambien has led to problems with compulsive eating or sleep eating. Sufferers will awaken to find that they have no memory of consuming what can often times amount to thousands of calories. As with the article about driving while under the influence of Ambien, this piece shows how the actions that we perform while sleeping can have very real effects on our daily lives.

The solution to these problems is very clear: stop prescribing Ambien. Very few people actually need a sleep aid, and as these recent articles point out, powerful hypnotics like Ambien can have serious side effects. The best way to get better sleep is to listen to your body and allow the natural melatonin mechanisms work. Just because your busy schedule has thrown you off of your sleep rhythm, that is no reason to take a powerful drug. Only by making your health and sleep more of a priority will you begin to get back in control of your sleep.


It may be that Ambien is what killed Heath Ledger today, if so, I hope that is enough to get it off the market. It does seem that drug companies and subsequently drs. experiment on patients.
Posted by: Pam 1/22/2008 7:55:30 AM

I take ambien and I found that when I take the whole pill (.5mg) I don't feel sleepy, so I cut it in half when I can't fall asleep (works better for me that way). I can see where if you are taking this medication and you think it's not working after the first dose, it would be easy to keep taking it until you felt sleepy or to the point of over dosing. Is that what happened with Heath Ledger? Who knows!I do know that when I took 1 1/2 pills one night, I had phone conversations with people and I apparently made no sense whatsoever! I do not remember talking to anyone! Thank goodness I didn't decide to go somewhere in my car!
Posted by: Kay 2/6/2008 10:04:35 AM

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