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The key ingredient in sleep medications such as Ambien has been linked to a 220 percent jump in emergency room visits between 2005 and 2010, according to a new government report. The ingredient, zolpidem, is also found in sleep aids including Eldular and Zolpimist, CBS News reports.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports there were 6,111 visits due to the medication in 2005. That number rose to 19,487 visits in 2010, according to the report. Three-quarters of patients were 45 or older.

Half of emergency room visits due to zolpidem involved another substance. In 37 percent of visits, zolpidem was combined with another drug that depresses the central nervous system.

“Although short-term sleeping medications can help patients, it is exceedingly important that they be carefully used and monitored,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a news release. “Physicians and patients need to be aware of the potential adverse reactions associated with any medication, and work closely together to prevent or quickly address any problems that may arise.”

Zolpidem is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat short-term insomnia, the article notes. In January, the FDA announced it is requiring drug makers to lower current recommended doses of sleep medications containing zolpidem. “New data show that zolpidem blood levels in some patients may be high enough the morning after use to impair activities that require alertness, including driving,” the FDA noted in a statement.


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