The number of people taking Ambien (zolpidem) and ending up in hospital emergency departments increased by nearly 220% between 2005 and 2010, from 6,111 to 19,487 visits, says a news report issued by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, USA).

SAMHSA added that 74% of all emergency department visits involving adverse reactions to Ambien were made by people aged at least 45 years.

According to public records, 4,916,328 Americans made drug-related visits to emergency departments in 2010.

Sixty-eight percent of all emergency department visits consisted of female patients in 2010, the report showed.

  • Women – a 274% increase in Ambien-related emergency department visits, from 3,537 in 2005 to 13,130 in 2010.
  • Men – a 144% rise in Ambien-related emergency department visits, from 2,484 in 2005 to 6,306 in 2010.

Zolpidem is a prescription drug for the short-term treatment of insomnia. Zolpidem is the active ingredient in medications such as Ambien, Ambien CR, Zolpimist and Edluar.

Zolpidem was first approved by the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) on December 19th, 2008.

According to SAMHSA, Ambien, Ambien CR, Zolpimist and Edluar have been used safely and effectively by millions of people in the USA. However, the FDA had to respond to a growing number of adverse reaction reports, and in January 2013, told pharmaceutical companies that made medications containing zolpidem to reduce the recommended dose for females by 50%. The Agency also suggested that the dosage should be reduced for men.

Even as far back as 2006, a growing number of people were getting up in the middle of the night, doing things and not remembering what they did, after taking Ambien.

The following most common adverse reactions linked to Ambien have been reported to the FDA:

  • agitation
  • daytime drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness while driving
  • hallucinations
  • sleep-walking

Zolpidem’s sedative effects can increase to dangerous levels when combined with other substances, especially with anti-anxiety drugs and narcotic pain relievers.

Half of all emergency department visits in 2010 involved zolpidem usage in combination with other medications. In thirty-seven percent of cases, zopidem was taken in combination with medications that depress the CNS (central nervous system).

SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, said:

“Although short-term sleeping medications can help patients, it is exceedingly important that they be carefully used and monitored. Physicians and patients need to be aware of the potential adverse reactions associated with any medication, and work closely together to prevent or quickly address any problems that may arise.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist