Ambien emergency room visits have skyrocketed, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Bad reactions to zolpidem — the active ingredient in popular sleep medicines Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar and Zolpimist — have soared by 220 percent over the five years of the study.
In 2005, SAMSA found that 6,111 people ended up in the ER as a result of an adverse reaction to Ambien or its relatives.
In 2010, there were 19,487 emergency room visits for the same reason.
Zolpidem is Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved to treat short-term insomnia. However, it is popular with international travelers to prevent sleep disturbances caused by travel and jet lag.
Three out of four of the Ambien-related emergency room visits involved a patient age 45 or older.
Women were more vulnerable to side effects serious enough to lead to the ER. SAMHSA said that in 2010, women accounted for more than two-thirds of such emergencies. In the five years from 2005 to 2010, women’s zolpidem-related ER trips increased a startling 274 percent.
The new study confirms an FDA decision in January to reduce the dosage recommendations for the sleeping pills. The FDA had determined that women weren’t clearing the medication from their system quickly enough, leading to drowsiness and other potential health and safety risks the next day.
Therefore, they cut the recommended dosage of Ambien and its relatives in half for women. They also suggested that doctors consider lowering the amount of drug that they prescribed to men.
You can reduce your risk by more than half by not taking zolpidem with other drugs or alcohol. Sixty percent of patients who ended up in the emergency room had mixed their sleeping medication with antidepressants, pain relievers, alcohol, or other substances that can magnify the effects of what would usually be considered a safe dose.
Hallucinations, paranoia, and confusion are some of the serious symptoms that sent patients to the emergency room for Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar, and Zolpimist reactions.
[sleepwalking photo by Ljupco Smokovski via Shutterstock]