Have you ever had the rare opportunity to have ambien (zolpidem) prescribed to you and experienced how quickly this medication takes effect? According to pharmacokinetic properties of this medication, zolpidem is rapidly absorbed after oral administration. Peak medication effects of the immediate-release tablet occur within 90 minutes of a single oral dosage. In single-dose studies in subjects administered 5 mg and 10 mg zolpidem, the mean peak concentrations (Cmax) were 59 (range: 29—113) and 121 (range: 58—272) ng/ml, respectively, occurring at a mean time (Tmax) of 1.6 hours for both strengths. The presence of food reduces the amount of absorption and increases the time taken to achieve maximum concentration, delaying sleep onset. Therefore all formulations of zolpidem should be taken on an empty stomach versus after a meal... unless of course you are out driving then by all means eat first, or do the right thing and don't take ambien and drive!
This medication has now been implicated in a car crash two weeks ago, when Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, swerved into a tractor-trailer on New York's Route 684 and kept driving. Witnesses said she had been weaving in and out of lanes for miles before the accident.
Toxicology reports showed 14 nanograms per milliliter of zolpidem in Kennedy's blood, according to the Associated Press. Both her blood and urine samples were negative for alcohol or other drugs.
Police found Kennedy slumped in her white Lexus on the morning of July 13, according to Reuters. She was unsteady on her feet and slurring her words. Initially she told police she may have accidentally taken the sleeping aid earlier that day, mistaking it for her thyroid medication.
At a court appearance July 17, she pleaded not guilty to a charge of drunk driving and said the hospital where she was treated found no trace of drugs and doctors had suspected a brain seizure. She is due back in court Aug. 14.
In 2006, her cousin Patrick Kennedy, the former congressman from Rhode Island and the son of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, was sent to alcohol and drug rehab, after crashing his car while on Ambien in Washington, D.C.
Ambien is a sedative-hypnotic that works by slowing activity in the brain, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is prescribed for those who have difficulty falling or staying asleep. It's meant to be taken immediately before bedtime and its effects last about seven to eight hours.
Sometimes patients can experience memory problems on awakening. Some have reportedly taken Ambien, left their bed and driven cars, prepared and eaten food, had sex or made phone calls while under the influence of the drug and not fully awake, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
The drug has a risk for anterior-grade amnesia, as well, according to Doering. "Memory never burns from RAM to ROM."
"The things that happen to a driver can be very scary," he said. "You are in a state where you are dreaming, but you are not quite sure whether you are awake or dreaming."