More ER Visits Due to Adverse Reactions to Zolpidem

Patient Expert

Before you ask your physician for a prescription sleep aid, be aware that the side effects from one particular drug, zolpidem, are becoming a concern. An increasing number of individuals who are taking this drug for insomnia are showing up at emergency departments with complications such as dizziness, behavioral changes, agitation, sleepwalking, sleep driving, excessive daytime drowsiness, and more.

Zolpidem is the active drug in several prescription medications including Edluar, Zolpimist, Ambien, and Ambien CR.

A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Drug Abuse Action Network (DAWN) is what first alerted the public to the issues with zolpidem. The report contained information about emergency department visits relating to the drug, as well as additional information that was gathered between the years 2005 – 2010.

Over the course of the five-year period, adverse reactions to the drug increased more than 200 percent. In 2005, there were 6,111 reported emergency room visits related to zolpidem. By 2010, the number of emergency room visits rose significantly to 64,175 with 19,487 of them being deemed truly adverse. The report also found that women and older adults had more unfavorable reactions than younger adults and men.

Zolpidem can have some scary and sometimes dangerous side effects. They include memory problems, hallucinations, engaging in bizarre behaviors, sleep walking and even eating or driving when not fully awake. If the drug is combined with certain types of other prescription drugs the combined effect in the body can magnify the side effects. Alcohol can also make the effects of zolpidem stronger or more intense.

The report does not state the reasons for the spike in emergency room treatments. It could be that the number of prescriptions written for the sleep aid had also increased. With all the usage of the drug, the side effects of it still remain much of a mystery. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did issue a safety alert regarding regulations of the drug. It required drug makers to cut the recommended dosage in half for females and they also suggested that the dosage for men be lowered.

_"The report does not state the reasons for spike in emergency room treatments. It could be that the number of prescriptions written for the sleep aid had also increased." _

Zolpidem is an effective treatment for insomnia and disordered sleep in the short-term. However, caution and care must be taken when using the medication. The drug should be taken as prescribed and it should not be combined with some types of prescription drugs such as those given for anxiety, pain, and depression. You should alert your physician if you notice any odd or concerning side effects.

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land’s free sleep training for insomnia. His course will help you identify the issues that are harming your sleep and teach you how to fix them. Over 3,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 96 percent of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.

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"Emergency Department Visits for Adverse Reactions Involving the Insomnia Medication Zolpidem." The DAWN Report:. May 1, 2013. Accessed August 21, 2015.