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Ambien Zombies

This entry was posted in Sedative and tagged on by .
Medically Reviewed Fact Checked

Last Updated on March 21, 2024 by Carol Gillette

Written by Diane Ridaeus
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

The popular sleep aid Ambien has some extremely troubling side effects, so much so that a new phrase has been coined … Ambien Zombies.

The term seems to stem from a person sleepwalking, sleep-driving, and other dangerous behaviors after taking Ambien, or generic zolpidem. In drug-induced sleepwalking, the person will wake up in the morning with zero recollection of what they did or said. And sometimes, the results are horrifying, such as unintentional injury or homicide.1


What kind of “medicine” blacks out memory & rational thought, and makes freakish nightmares come to life?
ambien zombie
For close to 20 years, Alternative to Meds Center has provided safe alternatives to drugs like Ambien. Getting to the root cause of the problem is the hallmark of our treatment programs. You can read about our success from an independently reviewed and published evidence over many years. It is often in the desperate rush of finding an immediate solution that imperfect planning happens, and unfortunately, this can totally miss the mark in obtaining true, sustainable relief from symptoms.
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What is the origin of the term “Ambien Zombies” ?

ambien zombiesThe term seems to stem from a person sleepwalking after taking Ambien, or the generic zolpidem. In drug-induced sleepwalking, the person will wake up in the morning with zero recollection of what they did or said. A troubling number of negative side effects are commonly seen in inpatient settings such as elder care homes, where patients are given zolpidem or other sedatives, leading to falls and fractures, dizziness, confusion, and other adverse effects. These side effects occur in both women and men. However, in women, these occur somewhat more frequently than they do in men, according to a 2023 study out of Korea.

Statistics on Chronic Insomnia

The DSM estimates 6% of the population suffers from “chronic insomnia.” Other sources of data from 2022 report an estimated 10-20% of the population worldwide experiencing unrelenting chronic insomnia, and between 50-70% experiencing some form of temporarily disrupted or poor quality sleep.8

These numbers are not decreasing, and the stress levels in those who suffer are high. But turning to a drug like Ambien may not be the perfect solution one is seeking. There are risks involved and certainly patient education on the potential downsides should be mandatory.1

How Safe is Ambien?

Most medical writing surveyed has presented zolpidem as a safe drug with little to no side effects or adverse withdrawal effects. After all, it is a NON-benzodiazepine sedative. This likely has led to overprescribing, or casual use, much as one would prescribe an aspirin for a headache. However, a study out of France, where the drug was first manufactured, started to raise the alarm as far back as 2007. Their research has shown clear evidence of negative effects, developed dependence, and other consequences that were not previously reported on. This data prompted the Government of France to re-examine the safety profile of Ambien and similar drugs.4

ambien black box warningA 2011 study out of India had documented delirium and seizures associated with zolpidem withdrawal.5 And further research has shown that difficulties with zolpidem withdrawal are a reality, especially in long-term use.6

And finally, after at least a decade of adverse reports involving zolpidem, in 2019 the the FDA issued a safety bulletin regarding sleeping pills associated with dangerous side effects like “sleep-driving,” unsafely using a stove, and other complex risks after taking Ambien and similar drugs. The FDA report stipulates that these behaviors can happen even after a single dose, as well as with longer-term consumption. Since 2019, the FDA now requires a black box warning on these products that clearly warn users about these dangers.7,10

Compared to other sleeping pills, zolpidem is the drug most prevalently associated with sleepwalking, sleep-driving, and other bizarre drug-induced behaviors, including suicide, homicide, self-harm, abnormal thinking, seizures, hallucinations, impaired motor control, depression, and severe anaphylaxis, for a few examples.1,9

Are there Safer Alternatives to Drug Therapy for Improving Sleep?

Many scientifically proven Ambien alternatives are available, but often overlooked. If a person took Ambien for insomnia, and wants to safely withdraw from Ambien and transition to non-pharmacological alternatives, effective, non-drug-based help is available.1

There are powerful non-drug-based therapies that can improve the quality of sleep safely that go far beyond simply stopping the use of sleeping pills. These may take some effort and planning to put in place, but the results can be life-changing.

A cautionary note:  never abruptly stop medication without medical oversight and guidance.

Effective alternatives to sleeping pills include:
  • Exercise
  • Diet correction
  • Set a regular sleep schedule
  • Testing for & correction of nutritional deficiencies
  • Support a healthy gut microbiome
  • Create a healthy sleep environment
  • Herbal, natural supplements
  • CBT counseling
  • Avoid alcohol, stimulants 6 hours before bedtime

Alternative to Meds Center Can Help

Alternative to Meds Center has helped many thousands of clients regain mental health and quality sleep without resorting to prescription medications. You can find out more about our protocols on our services overview pages, and by reviewing a more comprehensive article on Ambien alternatives.

A holistic approach is used, based on scientific principles of nutrition, orthomolecular medicine, environmental medicine, and a wealth of adjunctive therapies that help coax the body back to optimum condition without relying on toxic drugs. Call today for more information on how we can help you regain your optimum sleep and natural mental health without drugs.

References:


1. Edinoff AN, Wu N, Ghaffar YT, Prejean R, Gremillion R, Cogburn M, Chami AA, Kaye AM, Kaye AD. Zolpidem: Efficacy and Side Effects for Insomnia. Health Psychol Res. 2021 Jun 18;9(1):24927. doi: 10.52965/001c.24927. PMID: 34746488; PMCID: PMC8567759. [cited 2024 Mar 19]

2. Stallman HM, Kohler M, White J. Medication induced sleepwalking: A systematic review. Sleep Med Rev. 2018 Feb;37:105-113. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2017.01.005. Epub 2017 Jan 29. PMID: 28363449. [cited 2024 Mar 19]

3. Joung KI. Gender differences in spontaneous adverse event reports associated with zolpidem in South Korea, 2015-2019. Front Pharmacol. 2023 Nov 9;14:1256245. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2023.1256245. PMID: 38026947; PMCID: PMC10665515. [cited 2024 Mar 19]

4. Victorri-Vigneau C, Dailly E, Veyrac G, Jolliet P. Evidence of zolpidem abuse and dependence: results of the French Centre for Evaluation and Information on Pharmacodependence (CEIP) network survey. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2007 Aug;64(2):198-209. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2007.02861.x. Epub 2007 Feb 23. PMID: 17324242; PMCID: PMC2000636. [cited 2024 Mar 19]

5. Mattoo SK, Gaur N, Das PP. Zolpidem withdrawal delirium. Indian J Pharmacol. 2011 Nov;43(6):729-30. doi: 10.4103/0253-7613.89838. PMID: 22144786; PMCID: PMC3229797 [cited 2024 Mar 19]

6. Lähteenmäki R, Neuvonen PJ, Puustinen J, Vahlberg T, Partinen M, Räihä I, Kivelä SL. Withdrawal from long-term use of zopiclone, zolpidem and temazepam may improve perceived sleep and quality of life in older adults with primary insomnia. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2019 Mar;124(3):330-340. doi: 10.1111/bcpt.13144. Epub 2018 Dec 3. PMID: 30295409 [cited 2024 Mar 19]

7. “FDA Requires stronger warnings about rare but serious incidents related to certain prescription insomnia medications” FDA news release issued 2019 Apr 30 [cited 2024 Mar 19]

8.  Morin CM, Jarrin DC. Epidemiology of Insomnia: Prevalence, Course, Risk Factors, and Public Health Burden. Sleep Med Clin. 2022 Jun;17(2):173-191. doi: 10.1016/j.jsmc.2022.03.003. Epub 2022 Apr 23. PMID: 35659072. [cited 2024 Mar 19]

9.FDA Drug Label Ambien (zolpidem tartrate) approval 1992 [cited 2024 Mar 19]

10.  Inagaki T, Miyaoka T, Tsuji S, Inami Y, Nishida A, Horiguchi J. Adverse reactions to zolpidem: case reports and a review of the literature. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2010;12(6):PCC.09r00849. doi: 10.4088/PCC.09r00849bro. PMID: 21494350; PMCID: PMC3067983. [cited 2024 Mar 19]


Originally Published Sep 19, 2018 by Diane Ridaeus


This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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