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Emergency Rooms See Increase in Number of Visits Due to Ambien

Take heed Ambien users: Emergency rooms visits are on the rise for insomnia-related drugs. In fact, ER visits for Ambien-related adverse effects more than tripled between 2005 and 2010, according to new government figures. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that zolpidem, Ambien's active ingredient, was the cause of approximately 19,500 ER visits in 2010 compared with only 6,111 in 2005.

Zolpidem has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat short-term insomnia. Because of reports about adverse reactions to zolpidem, however, the FDA has issued warnings that people who drive or do activities that require alertness the morning after taking the pill may be affected by taking the medication.

In January 2013, the FDA recommended that sleep aid manufacturers reduce the recommended dose of products containing zolpidem for both men and women, though the FDA is particularly concerned with zolpidem's effect on women, who have seen a sharp increase in adverse reactions to zolpidem in the last several years. The increased susceptibility to adverse reactions in women likely stems from the fact that women's bodies get rid of zolpiden at a slower rate than men as a result of the extended release nature of the drug.

Adverse reactions to zolpidem include daytime drowsiness, dizziness, hallucinations, agitation, sleep-walking and drowsiness while driving, and the effects can become stronger when combined with other substances. In fact, half of all zolpidem-related ER visits involved another substance, and in 37 percent of all visits zolpidem was used with another depressive drug. The FDA has warned that anti-anxiety medications and narcotic pain relievers can "dangerously enhance" the sedative effect of drugs like Ambien.

Patients taking Ambien and other drugs containing zolpidem are urged to consult with a doctor about dosage, frequency, and other medications. Ambien should only be taken under the advice and supervision of a trained medical professional. Dr. Bob Rothstein, an emergency physician and vice president of medical affairs at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md., believes that zolpidem is safe but says that it should not be used for a long period of time.

"You become less sensitive to the drug over time so you will need more and more and you might mix it with other drugs so you're just putting yourself at risk," Rothstein told ABC News.

The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish are committed to protecting the public from dangerous medical products, including unsafe pharmaceuticals and defective medical devices. If you have been injured by an unsafe medicine or defective medical device, contact the Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish to schedule a free consultation to discuss a possible product liability or medical malpractice claim.

Steinberg Goodman & Kalish  (www.sgklawyers.com) is dedicated to protecting victims and their families.  We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (800) 784-0150 or (312) 782-1386.