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A DUI Driving Citation After Taking Ambien (Zolpidem)

Is it possible to be arrested for driving under the inflluence (DUI) while taking Ambien (zolpidem)? This reader was. Others have ended up in the hospital.

Americans love sleeping pills, especially Ambien (zolpidem). At last count nearly 20 million prescriptions are dispensed annually in the U.S. Once people start taking Ambien (zolpidem), many keep on taking it. That’s despite the FDA’s official prescribing information that says:

“AMBIEN (zolpidem) is indicated for the short-term treatment of insomnia characterized by difficulties with sleep initiation.”

Please note the words “short-term.”

There is another FDA caution:

“Complex behaviors such as “sleep-driving” (i.e., driving while not fully awake after ingestion of a sedative-hypnotic, with amnesia for the event) have been reported in sedative-hypnotic–naive as well as in sedative-hypnotic–experienced persons. Although behaviors such as “sleep-driving” have occurred with AMBIEN alone at therapeutic doses, the coadministration of AMBIEN with alcohol and other CNS depressants increases the risk of such behaviors, as does the use of AMBIEN at doses exceeding the maximum recommended dose. Due to the risk to the patient and the community, discontinuation of AMBIEN should be strongly considered for patients who report a “sleep-driving” episode.”

A DUI Citation After Ambien (Zolpidem):

Q. I have a question about Ambien. I took it and ended up sleep-walking. In fact, I was driving my car and was slapped with a DUI citation. I don’t remember a thing. Can you help me?

A. Sleep-walking, sleep-eating and even sleep-driving are potential hazards of taking Ambien (zolpidem). We have heard from other readers who have gotten into accidents while sleep-driving because of zolpidem.

Legal cases involving “sleep-related, complex behaviors such as sleepwalking and sleep driving” have been brought before the courts, but the legal decisions have been inconsistent (Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 2011; Journal of Law and Medicine, 2016).

Another Case of Sleep Driving Under the Influence of Ambien (zolpidem):

Wally offered this story about sleep driving:

“Ambien (zolpidem) would make me sleep walk, eat and drive! I would wake up with food in my bed. I would not remember anything about how that happened.

“One time I woke up in the hospital with a broken finger, femur, ankle, patella plus a fractured skull. I had been sleep driving. I am sure about that because I NEVER wear pajamas when I am driving. NEVER!

“I am pretty sure I was sleep walking to my car and then driving in my pajamas. I totaled my car into a tree about 30 seconds from my house.”

Other Options for Insomnia:

Many people are loathe to give up their Ambien (zolpidem). That’s because if they stop the insomnia comes back with a vengeance. The only way they can sleep is with zolpidem on board.

For people who would prefer to avoid such sleeping pills, we offer a number of alternatives in our eGuide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep. This online resource provides information on popular sleep aids and natural approaches to overcoming insomnia. It is available at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com in the Guide section.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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