The People's Perspective on Medicine

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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I have been taking 10MG for at least 15 years every day without any problem, except that it still is not a very good nite sleep. I am threatened by NY State, who says that at 70 you can’t get it anymore. Not sure I will be able to survive this.

PS: Right now the insurance will only pay for 15 days a month. The other 15 days I pay $28 for 15 pills or $2 per generic pill!
PS2: CBD oil (with Zolpidem) helps a lot but a good one is really expensive
PS3: My mother had Ativan, Oxycodone most of her adult life. When she died, 92, she had been Oxy free for a number of years and on her own volition.

I have used Ambien (zolpidem) on an occasional basis. I used to use 10 mg. at bedtime, but after reading about the experiences with driving in one’s sleep, etc., I had it cut down to 5 mg., which I take occasionally before bedtime. I haven’t had a problem with it.

I, too, have been taking 5 mg of Ambien on a very occasional basis for years – as directed, including with at least 7.5 hours to sleep afterwards. I’ve never had any problem with it. I use it only if I haven’t slept well for several consecutive nights – maybe once or twice per month. I don’t know why, other than mis-use, that it affects people differently, But I hope this isn’t becoming another drug that is taken off the market for everyone because some people have bad reactions.

Ambien is supposed to be taken at night. Maybe these people are taking too high a dose.
I never had any problems but my Dr. said it was a “dependent type of drug” so needless to say he wouldn’t fill a RX after a month. It is supposed to be only a temporary solution to some sort of trauma and can’t sleep situation. What are these physicians doing prescribing for long term. People should sue the Doctor for over-subscribing.

I think it’s stupid people are saying about driving after taking Ambien you’re not supposed to do that it says in the information on Ambien take only when you’re ready for bed get in the bed because I don’t know when it affects you be ready for sleep. Be ready for sleep you’re supposed to take it because you need to go to sleep if you’re out there driving and taking Ambien your ignorant

I don’t think any of the reports involve people who took Ambien and then willingly drove. A person posted this, and I believe they are mis-understanding the dangers of this drug. People are taking Ambien, going to bed, falling asleep and then conducting these activities by way of sleep walking and sleep driving. Do not underestimate how dangerous this drug is. I think it should be taken off the market.

I tried numerous times to get off Ambien, especially after reading the very negative side effects that were actually changing my brain function!
Not only was it hard to get to sleep, but I experienced vivid night terrors as I withdrew from the drug.
I finally just bit the bullet and decided to get off cold turkey. It was hard, but now my memory is better, my thinking is clearer and I can get to sleep ok as long as I don’t have caffeine after 3:00 pm. I am relieved to finally sleep like a normal person🤗. I feel stronger and better about myself for conquering this addiction. You can do it!!!

No problem for 10 years. I’m 78, in very good health. Should I expect problems to develop? I take 1/2 pill at night and wake up fine the next morning.

What dosage were they taking?

Seems I read some while back that sleep aids, on average, let one fall asleep about 5 minutes sooner and sleep about 15 minutes longer than placebos. Perhaps prescribing “placebos” would be much safer all the way around.

For me, lavender essential oil under the nose and on the pillow brings sleep quickly and easily.

I also had a bad experience with Ambien, resulting in totaling my car only two houses from my home. My dad had recently died, and in going through his things, I saw a bottle of Ambien. I kept it, thinking “just in case” I may need it. (Yes, I know taking meds prescribed for someone else is a huge No-No.) One evening, about 10-15 minutes after taking Ambien, my husband mentioned that he had forgotten to pick up one of his prescriptions, so I told him I would go pick it up. The pharmacy is only about 5 minutes from home, and I felt fine to drive. (He did not know I had taken the Ambien.) The result was what I mentioned in the first sentence…crashed into a mailbox and tree. I never felt sleepy while driving. I have wondered if a study has been done regarding the number of traffic accidents/violations that have occurred after taking Ambien.

I’ve never had a problem with Ambien CR and been taking for 10yrs. Chronic insomnia aggravated by shift work. If you have a problem you should stop taking it. It’s the only thing I can take that doesn’t leave me groggy the next day. When I retire in a couple of years I do want to wean off. And I’m tired of being lectured about taking something that, as of yet, causes me no problems. This first was blown out of proportion by two high-ranking male politicians who were able to blame Ambien for DUI even though they had both been drinking. So, instead of coming down on men about Ambien dosage it was women who “weren’t supposed to take the higher dosage because it stays in their system longer because of more body fat” according to the all-knowing FDA. I don’t know if that’s still the case. I know people who buy OTC sleep medications like Nyquil and Benadryl that leave them extremely hung over the next day. How is that supposed to be better? Strangely enough, I used to be able to take Benadryl, but when the grocery store brand of acetaminophen PM I took was discontinued I could not find another brand that did not leave me feeling terrible the next day. Go figure.

Yes! I, too, got a DWI for sleep driving while taking Ambien. My shrink was useless and took no responsibility for how the med affected me. I lost not only my driver’s license but my career. I never misused it but I lost my career because of it. The rebound insomnia led to a horrible car accident when I fell asleep at the wheel and I have 24/7 chronic pain.

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