The past two posts have explored the possible adverse effects of two drugs, Eszoplicone (a sleeping tablet) and Nortriptyline (an antidepressant sometimes prescribed for smoking cessation).

Both of these — as are countless others — strong medications which need to be administered and taken with care.

A third medication, the subject of today’s post, is Zolpidem which caught my attention when I read this comment from one of Karl ‘Market Ticker’ Denninger’s posts on gun control and psychotropic drugs.

The man discusses Halcion, a popular sleeping aid available on prescription. Although its active ingredient is Triazolam, a benzodiazepine, it got me looking for a few other sleeping tablet descriptions.  It’s odd how different active ingredients can produce similar results.

Erbo, Denninger’s commenter, says (emphases in the original):

My ex-wife told me a story about a bad experience she had before we met. She had (and continues to have) really bad insomnia. A doctor prescribed Halcion. While she was on this medicine, she beat the crap out of her then-husband, and afterwards, had no memory of having done so. The only way she knew about it was that her husband, bruised and with a bloody nose, told her what had happened. (Also note: She was decidedly older than 24 at the time of this incident.)

I’m staying away from any and all psychotropic drugs, thank you. (And that includes marijuana, Colorado law notwithstanding.)

The reference to ‘older than 24’ at the time refers to the popular idea in pharma and medical circles that any adverse effects are much less severe in adults over that age.

If you or your loved ones are contemplating psychotropic drugs, please ensure that you or they ask the doctor all possible questions about side effects. Reading the advisory with the tablets or an online search is also indispensable. The symptoms can be physical as well as psychological.

Having read the following, as with Eszoplicone, I do wonder whether a mug of Horlicks wouldn’t be a better remedy for insomnia.

The following excerpted information on Zolpidem comes from (emphases mine):

Zolpidem may cause a severe allergic reaction. Stop taking zolpidem and Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction while taking zolpidem: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Report any new or worsening symptoms to your doctor, such as: depression, anxiety, aggression, agitation, confusion, unusual thoughts, hallucinations, memory problems, changes in personality, risk-taking behavior, decreased inhibitions, no fear of danger, or thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself.

Stop using zolpidem and call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effects:

  • chest pain, fast or irregular heartbeat, feeling short of breath;
  • trouble breathing or swallowing; or
  • feeling like you might pass out …


In general, zolpidem is well-tolerated and causes little or no residual daytime effects in most young adult volunteers. Additionally, zolpidem does not significantly alter sleep architecture at recommended doses …

Nervous system

Chronic use in high doses and subsequent withdrawal may induce grand mal seizures. Cases of falls have been reported in elderly patients.

Nervous system side effects most frequently have included visual disturbances, ataxia, and dizziness. Headache, drugged feeling, confusion, anterograde amnesia, excessive sedation, lightheadedness, delirium, nightmares, hallucinations, nervousness, and agitation have also been reported.


Other side effects including tolerance to the pharmacologic effects of zolpidem have been reported rarely. Withdrawal symptoms after either abrupt cessation or fast tapering may occur. Withdrawal symptoms may include agitation, restlessness, anxiety, depression, insomnia, tremor, nausea, abdominal discomfort, and sweating.

Other side effects associated with the oral spray have included dry mouth.

A case of sleep driving has also been reported.


Psychiatric side effects including cases of psychotic reactions have been reported in association with zolpidem therapy ...

There is more information at the link.

After reading this, I’d rather be sleepless than run the risk of causing harm to myself or others — especially if I couldn’t remember the incident afterward.

Prescription drugs are far from foolproof and a variety of reactions are possible. Always be aware of what you are taking and what the side effects are.

More on prescription drugs and gun control next week.