Ambien is one of the most popular prescription sleep aids - yet, along with its generic counterpart zolpidem, it could actually help awaken coma patients.
In 1999, zolpidem was given to a coma patient who was thought to be suffering from insomnia after repeatedly clawing at his mattress during the night. After 20 minutes, he was conscious and began talking.
This effect only lasted a few hours, but over time his condition steadily improved and he no longer needed the drug.
Since then, other reports have been trickling in, confirming that zolpidem is helping some coma patients regain consciousness to varying degrees. It's worth mentioning that less than 10% of brain injured patients will see an improvement after taking the drug - however, its paradoxical effect for these 10% is rather astounding.
So why is a drug that is supposed to help people sleep waking those in comas? Some doctors aren't entirely surprised - which makes sense when you recall the number of stories we hear about Ambien patients sleep walking or performing other acts during the night beyond their apparent control.
Nevertheless, perhaps what these events confirm is the fact that one type of medication can affect different people in different ways. Maybe that's why there is no 'magic bullet' for insomnia - and perhaps why there will never be a single insomnia cure that works for everyone.
Source: New York Times
Last updated: February 6, 2012