Letter writer warns

Friday, August 17, 2007

of dangers of Ambien

Dear Editor:

This letter is written with the intention to educate and save lives of others that may be in danger and not know it. I don't claim to be a medical professional, but I can tell you our experience with the commonly prescribed sleeping pill Ambien. This legal drug is responsible for taking the life of my sister, Sunni Stumpff, on the morning of June 16.

I'm aware that many people have had good luck with this prescription with no known side effects. It worked for her at times too or she would have never continued to take it. What works for you today may not work for you tomorrow.

I've done my homework and have researched this drug and read stories from other misinformed individuals. One common complaint is this drug is addictive. I've asked healthcare professional and have been told that "no, it's not addictive; it's habit forming." I asked what the difference was and it was explained to me like this . . . if you are addicted, it's like being an alcoholic that thinks about having a drink every minute of every day. If it's habit forming, it would be more like you don't think you can sleep or stay asleep without taking it. I don't see much difference. Sunni accomplished so much in such a short time and was a very responsible young woman; not the type to get involved in behavior that would result in such a tragedy.

In March of 2007, the FDA required stricter warning labels on prescription sleeping pills, stating that they may cause "sleep driving." Why is this drug legal? I am determined to warn others and try to do something to get this drug off the market. I realize my voice may never be heard, but I have to try. Maybe they think they have done their job by providing the proper warnings. I see it as a driving bomb flying down the highway, putting the innocent at risk who didn't choose to take this drug, as well as harming the users that aren't aware of their actions.

Ambien is considered a hypnotic drug and can result in side effects with behavior such as sleep driving, having conversations and making phone calls, making purchases such as on-line shopping in the middle of the night, binge eating, doing things that you wouldn't normally do . . . all of this and more without knowing it. You may not find out until later when others begin to tell you what you did or you receive a delivery that you weren't aware you purchased, along with e-mail confirmation or bills.

It states that Ambien causes amnesia and if you experience odd behavior you should consult your doctor. The problem with that is how do you know it's causing this type of behavior if you aren't aware of what you're doing and have no memory of the event?

The longer you take Ambien the chances of side effects go up. I'm sure there are many great doctors that are prescribing Ambien but I ask them to ask themselves . . . would you prescribe this medicine to yourself or family? Sometimes we don't think much of it, since most medications have side effects that are sometimes unpleasant, but how many are putting both the user and an innocent person driving down the road at risk?

Even though they say Ambien isn't addictive, I've read many stories from people who claim they feel like they are what a heroin addict must feel like and are begging for help. Some of them have been on Ambien for years while others have only taken it for a short time. The end result can be fatal.

I wish I had done my homework before June 16 and could have done more for Sunni but now I can only try to help others. The withdrawal symptoms can be as bad as the addiction itself so it may be a difficult road to face, but just know someone cares enough about you to write this. I'm including my e-mail address (kjwilliams@centurytel.net) for anyone that wants to talk or share your story. I will do what I can to help.


Kara (Stumpff) Williams and the family

of Sunni Stumpff

Cassville, Missouri