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ER visits tied to Ambien and other sleep aids jump 220 percent

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Emergency room visits related to the sleep medication zolpidem, which is found in drugs like Ambien, increased by nearly 220 percent between 2005 and 2010, Science Daily reported.

A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) showed the number of zolpidem-related ER visits rose from  6,111 in 2005 to 19,487 in 2010. Three-quarters of the patients treated were over the age of 45 and two-thirds were women, the study indicated.

Zolpidem, an FDA-approved medication, is the active ingredient in drugs such as Ambien, Ambien CR, Edluar and Zolpimist, according to Science Daily. The drug is meant to be used as a short-term treatment for insomnia.

In January 2013, the FDA responded to complaints of adverse reactions to zolpidem by requiring manufacturers to slash recommended dosages for women in half. The FDA also suggested that manufacturers reduce the recommended dosages for men, Science Daily reported.

The SAMHSA report indicated that in 2010, half of all emergency department visits related to zolpidem involved its use with other drugs – which may have caused the sedative effects of the drug to be dangerously enhanced.

Adverse reactions to the medication may include daytime drowsiness, dizziness, hallucinations, agitation, sleep-walking and drowsiness while driving, Science Daily said.  

"Although short-term sleeping medications can help patients, it is exceedingly important that they be carefully used and monitored," said Pamela S. Hyde, SAMHSA administrator. "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."

Click here for more from Science Daily.

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