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A recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that from 2005 to 2010, visits to the emergency room due to zolpidem increased by almost 220%, or from 6,111 visits (2005) to 19,487 (2010). Zolpidem is a prescription drug primarily marketed as Ambien that is generally used to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders. 2010 saw a total 4.9 million drug-related emergency room visits in the US, including the ones related to zolpidem.

From 2005-2010 there was a 274% increase in female emergency room visits involving zolpidem (3,527 to 13,130), while there was only a 144% increase for males. Females represented 68% of all zolpidem-related emergency room visits during this period. In 2010, patients 45 and older represented 74% of such visits from adverse reactions to zolpidem.

Zolpidem is FDA-approved for short-term treatment of insomnia. In January, the FDA responded to the high number of women experiencing adverse reactions to the drug by halving their recommended dose. The FDA also suggested that manufacturers decrease the recommended dosage for men.

Adverse reactions to zolpidem include things like dizziness, hallucinations, and sleep-walking. When it is used along with other drugs, its sedative properties become magnified, especially if those other drugs are for treating anxiety or narcotic pain. The SAMHSA report found that in 2010, half of all zolpidem-related emergency room visits involved another drug. Furthermore, the majority of those incidents (37% of total emergency visits) involved zolpidem in conjunction with a drug that depresses the central nervous system.

SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde commented, “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.”

The report is called Emergency Department Visits for Adverse Reactions Involving the Insomnia Medication Zolpidem and is based on research from the 2005 to 2010 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN).

What are your preferred non-drug treatments for insomnia or sleep disorders? Has working with the iLs pillow influenced your recommendations in any way?

Learn more about the iLs Pillow here.

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