Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Possum Public Service Announcement #2

I've had this post saved as a draft since the day Heath Ledger was found dead. But, the more I think about it...the more I want to share a very personal experience. Maybe it will help someone else from going through what we did.

At one point, last year, I was having a really tough time sleeping. I had tried every natural or environmental option and wasn't finding relief from insomnia. So, my doctor gave me a prescription for Ambien. It worked. I slept really well. For a period of three months or so, I would take one MAYBE once a month. Well, one night, I had a horrible flu and had taken some benedryl about two hours before I took the Ambien. The Ambien was a 5mg tab. The next morning, I woke up and Mr. Possum said, "Are you okay?" I said, "Yeah. Why?" He then told me a very strange tale. Apparently, about an hour after I fell asleep, I got up. I walked into the kitchen and started banging cabinet doors around and rifling through the pantry. This woke up Mr. Possum. He came out and asked me what I was doing and I said, "I need carbs." He said, "well....what do you want, I'll get it for you." I said, "Chex Mix". This confused him because I have a serious dislike for Chex Mix. He put some in a bowl and said I walked back to the bedroom and crawled in bed with the bowl. I then proceeded to eat it without saying a word to him. I had no memory of doing this. In fact, I called him a liar. It wasn't until I made our bed and found crumbs that I believed him.

So, I started doing some Internet research. It turns out that Ambien can interact with other medications and cause an amnesiac-like state. There are recorded incidents wherein people, like myself, have done things they can't remember the next day. One man in Illinois got in his car and drove around...culminating in an accident where he hit someone else. When the police arrived, the man started talking about needing a Big Mac. It wasn't until he "woke up" four hours later in police custody that he found out he wasn't in bed. In all of these cases, it seems like diphenhydramine (Benedryl) is the key. Other cases have involved people making grandiose meals or rearranging furniture or even walking out the door into the freezing cold with no footwear or coat. Yet...as I sit here looking at the label on my bottle (that I kept,...I threw the meds down the toilet)...there's no warning. Not one little thing that would make someone with a cold or allergy think that they shouldn't take that medication with Ambien.

So...when I heard about Heath, I thought about my Chex Mix party. Reports have it that Heath had a cold or pneumonia. He also had Ambien. Knowing what I know... I just wonder if he was taking an antihistamine when he took the Ambien....and maybe, due to the state of amnesia, he took something else? This is dangerous stuff. Someone needs to do something about it.

17 comments:

SWE said...

Wow-that's some scary stuff. And all of those chex-mix crumbs in the bed besides...

Pharmaceutical companies are required to keep track of any reported "adverse event." I don't know if there's a limit to how long you can wait to report, but a talk with your pharmacist should be able to get the event tracked.

Hopefully enough people are reporting this that some warnings will be applied! Because we are all weird enough under our own power, thank you very much.

Stacey said...

I agree, scary stuff. Sadly, your story is not the 1st or 5th or even the 10th strange story I've heard about ambien side effects. And I'm just a massage therapist. I'm wondering what the doctors know that we aren't hearing yet?

Chris said...

I remember reading a news story a while back about some hotels that are training their staff what to do when they encounter people doing stuff like this. The reasoning was their hotels are used by a lot of busy career people who, of course, are having trouble sleeping and are increasingly turning to sleep meds. I guess it's common enough some hotel staff need to be ready for it (especially, as the article mentioned, some of them walk around the halls naked)

And, of course, I can't for the life of me find the article again :P

wineymomma said...

benadryl alone is enough to do this to my kids. I don't give them the stuff anymore because lullibell started sleep walking when she had it.

Poodles said...

I heard the same story Chris did. I heard it on Wait Wait...Don't tell me on NPR. I don't remember them saying anything about Ambien, but it wouldn't surprise me since the numbers have risen so much for naked sleep walking.

Ed The Frog said...

I have seen several television ads for Ambien recently that mention (in the half-second they spend listing side effects too fast for human ears) sleepwalking as a known side effect. I don't think they mentioned munchies.

If they know it well enough to put it in an ad, they ought to be putting it on the bottle too.

the chaplain said...

What a scary story. This confirms my intense dislike of medication. I usually opt to endure pain and illness rather than medicate them. My niece, a nurse, thinks this is a dumb attitude. Maybe it's not so dumb after all.

Michael said...

Possummomma,
I've been on a whole slate of psychoactive drugs for a variety of things in the past year. Ambien being amongst many.

I've also had a similar incident when using Ambien, it was when I was first put on the medication I blogged an entire multi page post and have 0 recollection of it. However I was not on benadryl. (At least I don't think I was at that point... there is a possibility I was on another antihistamine at that point, I'll have to look into it, you may be onto something)

I have heard all along the way that Ambien has reported somnambulatory incidents.

The good news is, that I never had another incident after the initial one. Like the better part of those drugs, the major side effects seem to clear up within 3 days.

Country Wife said...

I've been seeing tv ads for some sleep aid that has this exact side effect. The ad lists walking, eating, and driving in your sleep as side effects. I can't remember the name of the drug, though. I'll pay attention next time the ad is on. Totally scary stuff, those side effects.

Most of those ads list side effects that are far worse than the condition they treat (like the one for..um..restless legs (?) that can cause sex or gambling addictions!) Sure, your legs aren't restless anymore..you just spent the whole night cruising for sex or standing at the roulette table!

Anonymous said...

LUNESTA??

ZugTheMegasaurus said...

Good thing somebody was there to help you out. I gained 50 pounds in less than 3 months and couldn't for the life of me figure out why, since I barely ate anything. That was until I started noticing the dishes on my desk and decided to set up a camera.

After going to sleep, I was getting up, going down to the kitchen, cooking (yes, cooking) HUGE amounts of food (like 2 omelettes, grilled cheese sandwich, sausages, and broccoli, all at the same time). Nobody else was up, so no one knew what I was doing.

Oddly enough, I found that Benadryl was a pretty good solution to this. Still stuck with the 50 lbs though...

victor laszlo said...

wow....scary. the effect on me is quite the opposite...that is to say dreams about the muppets (both sesame street and others) battling to death stormtroopers as all of the ewoks have been trapped and are hanging in a cargo net on a tall tree. the 'count' was particularly bloodthirsty.

Strange.

Country Wife said...

@ anonymous: Yes, it was Lunesta. I saw the ad again tonight.

@ PMomma: Apparantly, this is a common side effect of Ambien as well as Lunesta. It's listed on the Ambien web site. If you look it up on wikipedia, there's even a Simpson's reference to the sleep walking type side effects of Ambien. I wonder why they don't put it on the bottle, though?

Katie said...

I've had problems with insomnia since I was about 8 and I've taken ambien for sleep for several years now, in comination with a variety of psychoactive drugs. I don't take ambien often (2-3 times per month), but I used to take it nightly. I've never had any experiences like that, but I do have mild hallucinations...things that shouldn't move (walls, doors, pictures, etc.) move a lot. I also say some very strange things to the big guy...it leads to some damn funny stories the next morning.

Even though I've never had a really bad experience, I've known people who have. For some people I know the visual hallucinations are enough to stop them from taking it, but I just think it's funny.

I generally don't like taking meds, but it's something I have to do to keep my life working and on an even keel. BUT you do have to be very careful, know what you're taking and why, and educate yourself. It's some scary shit...

the invisible dragon said...

Was it Ambien that led to a Kennedy getting pulled over for 'sleep-driving'? I just remember the 'oh crap!' aspect of driving while asleep.

I'm happy that insomnia has never been one of my problems; the remedies seem more scary than the problem.

Joe said...

I've done all that sleepwalking stuff without any sleep aids. That in itself is scary, much less the stories I've read here. I don't think I'll be taking any of that stuff.

OzAtheist said...

Wow that Ambien stuff sounds really scary, as if you didn't have enough problems on your plate.

Interested to find out if Heath had a bad reaction, like you suspect.