May 16, 2021   5:26pm

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Ambien Amnesia. Ever heard of it?

Just this week I was told this frightening Ambien-related story by an acquaintance it had happened to … After a day of double vision, bizarre memory loss, a potential automobile accident, and, finally, an 11:30 p.m. trip to the hospital emergency room, she’d had Transient Global Amnesia, something her doctors also referred to as Ambien Amnesia. She didn’t remember most of the prior 24 hours.

Lest you think this is a rare occurrence, she since discovered that the same Ambient-induced memory loss had happened to someone she knows. For the latter, the police were on the alert, due to calls coming in about a woman driver swerving from lane to lane on the interstate highway. Highway patrol finally caught up with her after the inevitable accident, where a truck driver ended up jackknifed in a ditch (luckily with little personal harm). As the police helped the woman driver out of her car which was smashed beyond recognition (her seatbelt saved her), she blithely smiled and introduced herself – completely clueless about what had just happened. Again … Ambien Amnesia.  The police wondered aloud later about how many accidents are unknowingly caused by this drug.

While my acquaintance was taking Ambien on a nightly basis, she has, of course, now given it up.

While not attributing Transient Global Amnesia to Ambien, the Mayo Clinic describes it as “… a sudden, temporary episode of memory loss that can’t be attributed to a more common neurological condition, such as epilepsy, transient ischemic attack, stroke or head injury. During an episode of transient global amnesia, your recall of recent events simply vanishes, so you can’t remember where you are or how you got there. You may also draw a blank when asked to remember things that happened a day, a month or even a year ago. You do remember who you are, and you recognize family members and others you have known for a long time, but that knowledge doesn’t make your memory loss any less disturbing.

Transient global amnesia would be even more distressing if it recurred more often or lasted longer than it does. The condition is rare to start with, and among the few who do have one episode, a second episode is uncommon. Also, episodes of transient global amnesia last only six hours, on average – although an episode of any length is frightening to witness or experience.

When an episode of transient global amnesia is over, you remember nothing that happened while your memory was impaired, and you might not recall the hours beforehand. Otherwise, though, your memory is fine.”

The Mayo Clinic’s description is exactly like what my acquaintance told me had happened to her.

Thinking this may be more common than people think, I looked online and found the following at * where it states that: “Ambien (zolpidem tartrate) belongs to a class of medicines called central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which slow down the nervous system. Used for the treatment of insomnia, Ambien is manufactured by Sanofi-Aventis, and was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1999.” Among other occurances it goes on to say that the media have “reported that a number of patients have taken Ambien and experienced temporary memory loss or ‘amnesia’: unable to remember events that occurred while they used the drug … ” and that … “in some cases, Ambien and other sleep medicines can cause a special type of memory loss or “amnesia.” When this occurs, a person does not remember what has happened during the several hours between using Ambien and the time its effects wear off …” To the question: “Are there any special precautions I should observe before taking Ambien?, ” the answer states …Because sleep medicines may lose their effectiveness if they are used every night for a long time, they should only be used for short periods of time (such as 1 or 2 days) and generally for no longer than 1 or 2 weeks. Talk to your healthcare professional if you think you need to take Ambien for more than 7 to 10 days …”

I tried Ambien once on a lengthy overseas flight; it so weirded me out, that was the last time I ever used it.

If you’re using Ambien, I don’t want to sound preachy, but think again about it. Maybe you should be looking for an alternative.
*They say their content is mostly taken from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health

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