Zolpidem is the active ingredient in the prescription sleep aids Ambien®, Ambien CR®, Edluar® and Zolpimist®
The estimated number of emergency department visits involving zolpidem overmedication (taking more than the prescribed amount) nearly doubled from 21,824 visits in 2005-2006 to 42,274 visits in 2009-2010, according to a new study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
The report also indicates that 68 percent of all zolpidem overmedication visits in 2010 involved females, the number of zolpidem overmedication emergency department visits for males increased 150 percent from 2005-2006 to 2009-2010 compared to an increase of 69 percent for females over the same time period.
In 2010 there were a total of 4,916,328 drug-related visits to emergency departments throughout the nation.
Other prescription drugs were involved in 57 percent of the emergency department visits involving zolpidem overmedication. These medications included benzodiazepines (26 percent) and narcotic pain relievers (25 percent). Alcohol was also combined with zolpidem in 14 percent of these hospital emergency department visits.
Zolpidem is an FDA-approved medication used for the short-term treatment of insomnia and is the active ingredient in the brand name sleep aid drugs Ambien®, Ambien CR®, Edluar®, and Zolpimist®. These drugs have been used safely and effectively by millions of Americans. However, in January 2013, the FDA responded to increasing numbers of reports of adverse reactions by requiring manufacturers of drugs containing Zolpidem to reduce the recommended dose by half for females. The FDA also suggested that manufacturers reduce the recommended dose for men as well.
Side effects associated with the medication include daytime drowsiness, dizziness, hallucinations, agitation, sleep-walking, and drowsiness while driving. When zolpidem is combined with other substances, the sedative effects of the drug can be dangerously enhanced.
Overall, nearly half (47 percent) of zolpidem overmedication-related emergency department visits resulted in either a hospital admission or a transfer to another medical facility. About a quarter of these more serious cases involved admission to a critical or intensive care unit.
“Sleep aid medications can benefit patients, but they must be carefully used and monitored,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “Physicians and patients need to discuss the potential adverse reactions associated with any medication, and work together to prevent problems or quickly resolve any that may arise.”
SAMHSA has several major efforts underway to promote prevention and risk reduction regarding prescription drug related problems. For example, SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework - Partnerships for Success II (SPF-PFS II) grant program provides funding to communities throughout the nation for programs raising awareness about the problems of prescription drug misuse and abuse among persons aged 12 to 25. SAMHSA has also partnered with the National Council on Patient Information and Education on the “Not Worth the Risk – Even If It’s Legal” campaign. The partnership has developed and distributed educational and outreach messages to encourage parents to communicate with their teens on prescription drug abuse and misuse. These messages have been distributed to television, radio, and newspaper outlets across the nation.
The report entitled, Emergency Department Visits for Attributed to Overmedication That Involved the Insomnia Medication Zolpidem is based on findings from the 2005 to 2010 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports. DAWN is a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related morbidity and mortality through reports from a network of hospitals across the nation.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.