Entries in Ambien (2)


Why Driving and Sleep Drugs Don't Mix

ABC News(IOWA CITY, Iowa) -- On Tuesday's World News broadcast, correspondent Lisa Stark demonstrates the dangers of driving after taking sleeping medication. She traveled to the University of Iowa, home of the most advanced driving simulator in the country, to reproduce the experience of driving while under the influence of such medication.

Watch the driving simulation experiment:

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Although the term "sleep driving" has been used to describe impaired driving due to misuse or abuse of sedative drugs like sleeping pills, the term technically refers only to cases when individuals drive while actually asleep or not fully conscious -- much like sleep walking. These individuals typically drive in an impaired or unsafe manner.

First reported in 1996, sleep driving falls under the category of "complex behaviors" that can be side effects of certain sleeping pills. Other reported complex behaviors include sleep eating, sleep sex and sleep violence.

Such complex behaviors, however, are actually quite rare. In a review from 1992-2006 reports, researchers found a total of only 14 reports of sleep driving.

A much more common concern of sleep medications is impaired driving due to misuse of these drugs. In 1999-2005, a study found that zolpidem, a common sleep medication that also is manufactured under the name Ambien, was the major intoxicant in 187 of 8,121 DUI arrests in Wisconsin -- in other words, 2.3 percent. The DUI arrests occurred at all times of the day and night, with nearly a quarter of them occurring between 8:00 a.m. and noon.

"A good safe medication that can quickly get you to sleep is on the market, but if you take it at the wrong time, that's the problem," says Dr. Mark Eric Dyken, director of sleep disorder center at the University of Iowa. "If you take it when you're supposed to be awake…it's gonna be dangerous."

This danger persists if people drive too soon after taking the drug. Package inserts on sleeping medication recommend at least seven to eight hours of sleep before engaging in activities such as driving. Because the half-life of zolpidem, for example, is 2.5 hours -- meaning 50 percent of the drug is eliminated from the body every 2.5 hours -- it should take about seven to eight hours for most of the drug's effects to leave the system. At this rate, about 97 percent of the drug is out of a person's system 12.5 hours after they take it.

The pill's developer, Sanofi-Aventis, says it stands behind the safety and efficacy of Ambien when used as directed, and there is a clear warning on the drug label that patients should receive seven or eight hours asleep before being active.

Despite this, many people may be driving before the drug is out of their system. In an American study conducted by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, zolpidem was found in 0.12 percent of daytime drivers and 0.01 percent in nighttime drivers. In a similar survey in Norway, where hours of daylight can be extremely long or short and many people use sleeping medication to manage sleep schedules, levels of a sleeping medication called zopiclone was found in 2.3 percent of drivers during weekdays and 1.9 percent on weekends.

This dangerous trend of drivers under the influence may continue, as the market itself has grown 13 percent over the last four years, to 60 million total prescriptions written for all sleep medications in 2011, contributing to a $1.6 billion market. Popular sleeping drugs include zolpidem, as well as eszopiclone (Lunesta), temazepam (Restoril) and triazolam (Halcion).

Since its approval in 1992 for the treatment of insomnia, zolpidem has been the best-selling sleep medication -- a trend that continues to climb. Prescriptions for all forms of zolpidem have increased in 29.8 percent from 2007 to 2011, with 44.8 million prescriptions written in 2011, 95 percent of which are for the generic version.

This increase in sleeping pill popularity should be tempered with the knowledge of their side effects. In 1995, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration changed the labeling of zolpidem to include warnings that the drug could increase the risk of depression or suicidal thinking. A 2008 revision of these warnings added complex behaviors, including sleep driving and hallucinations, to the label.

 Patients should also exercise caution to obtain at least the recommended amount of sleep -- seven to eight hours -- after taking sleeping pills. Any less sleep, and patients may exhibit the types of impairment that are common to sleepy drivers: poor or slow coordination, nystagmus (rapid back and forth eye movement), lack of balance, poor performance on sobriety tests, slow or slurred speech, muscle flaccidity, impaired vision, drowsy, tired, confused, disoriented appearance, and short term memory loss.

ABC News' Stark had been a great example of what happens after taking a sleep medication and driving. After three drives, she reviewed her experience, recounting her memory of two of her drives while on the medication.

"But you actually had three drives while you were on the Ambien," simulator research director Chrysler told her.

"I had three drives?" she asks. "Are you sure?"

"Yes," Chrysler confirms. "You were so asleep when we stopped that we had to wake you up in the driver's seat to get you out of the car."

"Well, I don't remember that many drives," says Stark. "I don't remember that many drives so clearly. One of them at least is a blur."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Amnesia Mom' Says Ambien May Be to Blame

Matthew Hatfield(MIAMI) -- The Colorado mom who says she doesn't remember abandoning her two young sons in a van and walking for 12 miles has reported another case of amnesia to police in which she says she unknowingly sold treasured family heirlooms to a local pawn shop.

The statement by Sarah Hatfield comes as she pled not guilty in court Thursday on two charges of misdemeanor child abuse related to the Jan. 28 incident in which she left her two young sons, ages 2 and 4, at a Thornton, Colo., gas station.

Hatfield, 26, claims her last memory from that day is sitting in her van with her sons at the gas station. Nearly 12 hours later, around midnight, she arrived outside the National Jewish Hospital in Denver, appearing disoriented as she asked a security guard to use a phone to call home, according to police.

Police found the two boys, as well as Hatfield's wallet, cell phone and keys in her abandoned van in the gas station parking lot after responding to a call. They say her husband, Matthew, also reported a handgun missing from the family's home.

The couple reported to police this week that a local pawn shop notified them that a loan was due related to two necklaces and a ring that the shop says Sarah Hatfield pawned two weeks before the van incident. The store has surveillance video showing Hatfield in the store on Jan. 10 but her husband says she has no memory of being there.

"When Sarah walked into the pawn shop [to question the loan] she said that she had no recollection of ever being in there before and she believed it was the first time she'd been in there," Matthew Hatfield told ABC News.

"They [the pawn shop] wouldn't tell us any information so we called the police and the shop released the information and the video to the police," he said. "It certainly appeared to be her on the surveillance video."

Matthew Hatfield says the incident builds his wife's case that she did not knowingly abandon the couple's children and rules out the idea floated by doctors after the Jan. 28 incident that a condition known as "transient global amnesia" could be the cause of his wife's memory loss.

"It does speak to the fact that her inability to recall events has happened more than once," he said. "We're still waiting for follow up with neurologists. She's also going to be undergoing an in-depth psychological evaluation."

The psychological evaluation, Matthew Hatfield said, comes at the request of Child Protection Services which has ordered his wife to not be left alone unsupervised with the couple's children.

Hatfield says the family is now looking more closely at withdrawal from the insomnia medication, Ambien, as a possible cause for his wife's memory loss. The otherwise healthy Hatfield has a history of insomnia and debilitating migraines, the latter of which she's being treated for.

"Sarah had been taking Ambien for about two months and she stopped taking it in mid-January when her prescription ran out," Matthew Hatfield said. "The effect of Ambien withdrawal can also describe what she experienced and, based on our research, can also last for months."

"Ambien is a drug you're supposed to step down from and she didn't do that," he said. "If you step off it properly you're supposed to minimize those withdrawal side effects but she didn't so we believe that may be a cause because the timeline fits and the symptoms fit as well."

Hatfield's trial date is set for June 14. She could face up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Thornton, Colo., police are not commenting on the case, saying it is still an active investigation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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