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Originally published March 13 2008

Stilnox/Ambien/Imovane: The Sleep Drugs That Can Kill

by Lynn Berry

(NaturalNews) Last year a young woman died after jumping off Sydney Harbour Bridge. Security footage shows her walking in a zig-zag fashion along the cycleway before climbing onto a ledge. Officials and family believe it wasn't suicide.

According to her family, this behaviour is like other deaths and bizarre behaviour allegedly caused by the drug marketed in Australia as Stilnox (also known as Ambien) manufactured by Sanofi-Aventis which contains zolpidem and/or zopiclone.

This drug is one of the most frequently prescribed drugs in the world, and was in fact one of the drugs found in Heath Ledger's home.

Despite reports of deaths, attempted suicides and attempted murders, and bizarre behaviour, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (a body similar to the FDA) has not declared the drug, a 'drug of abuse'. Its concern only went as far as issuing a warning about its potential dangers if drinking alcohol or taking anti-depressants.

Sanofi-Aventis was very much against declaring the drug as a 'drug of abuse', as this would have made it harder for doctors to prescribe. And as a consequence would have meant less sales for the manufacturer.

According to the Brisbane Times, a spokeswomen for Sanofi-Aventis said the criticism about the drug is a "largely Australian-specific phenomenon and in our view does not accurately reflect [its] safety profile", ( .

Sanofi-Aventis is an international company and we have to question the accuracy of the spokeswoman's statement about there being no/little criticism of the drug anywhere else in the world. Is she saying that only Australians seem to be affected? And what exactly is its safety profile? Let's have a look.

Stilnox is a non-benzodiazepine hypnotic drug classed as a Z-class drug along with Zolpidem, zopiclone, zaleplon. The Z-class drugs are used instead of Valium and Rohypnol.

According to the petition calling for the drug's withdrawal, the drug is linked to a range of effects that people taking the drug do when asleep, including walking, driving, eating, cooking, and sex.

Other common side effects:

* hallucinations

* nightmares

* daytime drowsiness and fogginess

* serious short-term memory loss

* severe depression

* weight loss, fatigue

* loss of concentration

* nervousness

* confusion

* anxiety and panic attacks

* altered personality

* loss of sexual inhibitions

* paranoia

* delusions

* loss of rational thought

* blackouts

* amnesia

* depersonalization

* addiction

* self-mutilation

* psychotic episode

* criminal behaviour.

In addition, there are reports of Stilnox being used for its hallucinogenic and other mind altering effects, as well as to wake patients from comas.

From 2002, the WHO has listed zolpidem and zopiclone as Schedule 5 Drugs of Dependence and Abuse. Australian doctors have not been made aware of this and prescribe the drug more readily than doctors in Europe and Canada.

The side effects of the drug on the US site of the manufacturer is very different, more extensive, compared to the information available on the New Zealand site. This suggests the unlikely scenario that people in different countries have different reactions. However it's much more likely that the manufacturer is keen to submit only as much information as that country requires. What happens in countries where there is much less control on legal drugs?

The family of the woman who died falling off the bridge have a petition. To sign the petition calling on the Therapeutic Goods Administration to ban the drug go to ( .

If the drug manufacturer thinks only Australians complain, see US information at ( .

For an update on the Heath Ledger death see ( .

About the author

Lynn Berry is passionate about personal development, natural health care, justice and spirituality. She has a website at

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