Ambien is a sleeping pill. But lately it is has been listed in the top 10 list of drugs found in impaired drivers. Wisconsin officials identified Ambien in the bloodstreams of 187 arrested drivers. Officials say that there are signs that Ambien-related driving arrests are on the rise. Ambien's maker, Sanofi-Aventis said that the drug is safe when taken as directed. Spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A) Susan Cruzan said the drug's current label warnings, which says that it should not be used with alcohol and in some cases could cause sleepwalking or hallucinations, were adequate. The study was conducted by Laura J. Liddicoat, the forensic toxicology supervisor at a state-run lab in Wisconsin.
She presented this paper at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, where her counterparts from other parts of the country swapped similar tales. Her presentation reported six cases of bad driving under the influence of Ambien. Ms. Liddicoat's cases involved drivers whose blood revealed evidence of Ambien overdoses. Ms. Liddicoat did not describe any of those cases as sleep-driving. But some medical researchers say reports of sleep-driving are plausible. The lead researcher in the study Dr. Carlos Schenck, an expert in sleep disorder said that some of the patients when questioned failed to remember the episode the next day.
He said that sleep-driving occurs in a twilight state between sleep and wakefulness and is very common among people. A survey was conducted by a committee from the forensic sciences group and the Society of Forensic Toxicologists. Dr. Sarah Kerrigan, a forensic toxicologist in Houston involved in that survey said that they found that among laboratories that conduct tests of drivers' blood samples for two dozen states, 10 labs list Ambien among the top 10 drugs found in impaired drivers. Still Ambien sales last year reached $2.2 billion. It accounted for 84 % of prescriptions dispensed. Dr. Mark Mahowald, director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center at Hennepin County Medical Center, who is also involved in Dr. Schenck's study, said that alcohol has sometimes been shown to cause sleepwalking, and it can also magnify Ambien's effects.
In a study published in 2001, researchers at the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center reported on five cases of unusual nighttime eating, sometimes while sleepwalking, in patients taking Ambien. After this people say that there has to be a much stronger warning associated with the general guidelines for this tablet.