Are New or Existing Sleeping Pills Any Safer?
It has been several years since the bloom fell off the rose of Ambien, the blockbuster sleeping pill. Recently, the FDA has warned about Ambien hangovers, sedation and the risk of dangerous driving and recommended lower doses. The FDA warnings came a year after Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and former wife of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, was arrested for what was believed to be Ambien-inebriated driving. The arrest came six years after her cousin, former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, son of Sen. Edward Kennedy, was also involved in an apparent Ambien-related traffic mishap.
After Rep. Kennedy's crash, as stories of more bizarre behavior on the sleeping pill surfaced, Ambien's manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis, was forced to launch an ad campaign telling people if they were going to take Ambien, to get in bed and stay there. (Or you'll "break out in handcuffs" as the joke goes.) Reports of driving, eating, sex and other "wakeful" behavior in Ambien blackouts proliferated.
Under the influence of Ambien, people say they have sexted married friends, drawn penises in the middle of their handwriting, ordered expensive and unwanted items online and one person "tried to legally change my name on the computer." One woman I interviewed drank an entire bottle of black shoe polish under the influence of Ambien. Tiger Woods reportedly used it for sex. Dieters report being horrified at the type and amount of foods consumed during an Ambien blackout.
But Ambien blackouts are not just about night-eating and zany behavior--they are as serious as cancer.
In 2012, in San Antonio, Julie Ann Bronson, a 42-year-old flight attendant was tried for running over a mother and her two daughters while "sleep driving" and her life was "ruined" by Ambien, says her lawyer. In 2006, a 36-year-old lawyer from Andover, Massachusetts, was sleep-driving on Ambien when he struck and killed a man who was changing a tire alongside his wife and young son, according to Marie Claire magazine. Two years later, a 56-year-old woman also sleep-driving while on Ambien killed a mother of 11 children.
In 2012, the Mayo clinic in Rochester announced it would no longer prescribe Ambien to inpatients because they are four times as likely to experience falls from the drug. Ambien is also linked to suicide and suicidal thoughts in users.