Ambien (zolpidem), a popular insomnia drug, has been linked to a risk of impaired driving ability and/or car accidents in patients who feel fully awake the next morning (which is different from sleep driving, another side effect of Ambien). About 700 next-morning Ambien car accidents or impaired driving incidents have been reported. Unfortunately, many drivers were unaware of this risk when they took Ambien — especially women, who have an even higher risk.
UPDATE: Ambien Dose Lowered Due to Next-Morning Car Accidents
January 10, 2013 — The FDA has published a Safety Communication to warn about the risk of next-morning impaired driving and car accidents associated with Ambien (zolpidem). The risk is highest for extended-release Ambien CR. Women are also at greater risk for impaired driving, because they eliminate Ambien more slowly from their body than men.
- The recommended dose of Ambien will be reduced from 10-mg to 5-mg for women, and 5-mg or 10-mg for men.
- The recommended dose of extended-release Ambien CR will be reduced from 12.5-mg to 6.25-mg for women, and 6.25-mg or 12.5-mg for men.
What is the problem with Ambien?
Ambien (zolpidem) is a popular sleep medication used to treat insomnia. Although the side effect information includes warnings about next-morning drowsiness, it does not warn about impaired driving ability in people who feel fully awake. The FDA warns:
“Patients who take insomnia drugs can experience impairment of mental alertness the morning after use, even if they feel fully awake.”
Many women were also unaware that they have a higher risk of next-morning impairment because the drug is eliminated more slowly from their body. Other zolipdem-containing sleep medications, such as Intermezzo (which contains very low doses of zolipdem), already include extra warnings for women.
Studies of Ambien Car Accidents
Studies of Ambien indicate that blood levels above 50-ng/mL can impair driving and increase the risk of a car accident. When researchers gave 250 men and 250 women 10-mg of Ambien, about 15% of women and 3% of men still had at least 50-ng/mL of Ambien in their blood 8 hours after they took the drug.
The risk of impaired driving was even higher for extended-release Ambien CR. Among patients who were given 12.5-mg doses of Ambien CR, 33% of women and 25% of men had more than 50-mg/mL of Ambien in their blood 8 hours after they took the drug. About 5% of patients had more than 100-ng/mL in their blood.
Ambien Car Accident Lawsuits
If you took Ambien and were injured in a car accident the next morning, you are not alone. Nearly 700 incidents have been reported to the FDA, and it is possible that others have never been reported. Unfortunately, many drivers were not aware that they may still be impaired even though they feel fully awake. Many women were also unaware that they have a greater risk of impairment.