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Stilnox: Hackett, Sleepwalking and Addiction Exposed

We have previously written about the Australian Swimming team and their abuse of the sleeping tablet Stilnox during the London Olympics.

Now this notorious drug is back in the spotlight with Olympic golden boy, Grant Hackett unable to kick the habit and has now seeking help in a rehabilitation centre in America.

First prescribed to Grant in 2008, this medication has seen his career sink in and out of the pool.

Reports of ‘sleepwalking’ through the games village in Beijing in ’08, to the most recent half naked tirade through Melbourne’s Crown Casino.

Described as “evil”, in 2012 he admitted to a heavy reliance on the drug during the final stages of his career.

This latest news linking Hackett to rehab comes just weeks after Ian Thorpe, entered a rehabilitation program in Sydney after being found wandering the streets of southern Sydney in a confused state earlier this month.

Stilnox has also been used as a party drug by NRL football players.

Dangerous side effects of this sedative-hypnotic drug include hair raising sleep walking episodes, sleep driving and even sexual misadventures while sleeping.

Accidental deaths have also been linked to Stilnox, with groggy sleepwalkers falling off bridges and cliffs.This drug was also found in Heath Ledger’s apartment after his death from an accidental overdose.

Is this medication being too loosely prescribed in professional sport or to the public in general?

Lets refresh your memory on this quick fix drug for insomnia.


Public Warnings 

In 2000, Stilnox was the first product containing zolpidem to be marketed in Australia.

Since then it has also been marketed under other trade names including Dormizol, Stilnoxium and Stildem. Zolpidem is prescribed as Ambien in the US.

Over 250,000 Australians currently use this drug for insomnia.

You should be made aware of the possible side effects by your prescribing doctor but this is often overlooked.

I’m sure this information would make many people think twice about starting on this drug.

The medicine guide for Stilnox outlines the “less common adverse” side effects as:

“Unexpected changes in behaviour. These have included rage reactions, confusion and other forms of unwanted behaviour. Sleep walking, driving motor vehicles and other unusual and on some occasions dangerous, behaviours while apparently asleep.

“These have also included preparing and eating food, making phone calls or having sexual intercourse. People experiencing these effects have had no memory of the events.

“Alcohol can increase the risk of sleep walking and other related behaviours. These side effects can also occur without the presence of alcohol.”

In 2008 Mairead Costigan died after falling from the Sydney Harbour Bridge during what her family claims as a Stilnox-influenced sleepwalking event.

Mairead had been on the drug for about eight months. Security footage shows 30-year-old Mairead walking groggily across the cycle path and climbing onto a ledge before she fell.

Due to public outrage and attention the TGA imposed a permanent warning on the product saying: “Zolpidem may be associated with potentially dangerous complex sleep – related behaviours which may include sleepwalking, sleep driving and other bizarre behaviours.

Zolpidem is not to be taken with alcohol. Caution is needed with other CNS depressant drugs. Limit use to four weeks maximum . ..”


The Ambien Defence

‘The Ambien Defence’ is being used as a plausible excuse for certain behaviours.

So-called Ambien Zombies have used this defence in court cases as they cannot remember committing any crimes.

Tiger Woods famously mentioned his use of Ambien when he was in the middle of his 2009 sex scandal.

Just because he couldn’t remember it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen!

In 2009 Robert Stewart killed eight people and used ‘The Ambien Defence’ to get his charges reduced from first-degree murder as he was unable to control his actions.


Final Word

Stilnox has a potential for either medical misuse when the drug is continued long term without or against medical advice, or recreational use when the drug is taken to achieve a “high”, usually mixed with RedBull.

Chronic users of high doses are more likely to develop physical dependence on the drug, which may cause severe withdrawal symptoms, including seizures, if abrupt withdrawal from Stilnox occurs.

More effective long-term treatments for sleeping problems is to find the underlying problem and what causes sleeplessness. Click here for more natural solutions for insomnia and sleep related conditions.

A major concern with sleeping pills is that they don’t produce normal sleep.

They act more like inducing mini-coma than anything resembling sleep. The best way to rest and rebuild body and brain is still through natural sleep.

We hope that Grant receives the help that he needs and sets an example for other professional sportsmen.

If you need help with an addiction or suffer from insomnia, speak to your Emed Practitioner today.


Further Reading:


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