A young man recently shared on his Twitter profile that he bought two travel packages, worth a total of R$9,000, during a hallucination triggered by the drug zolpidem. The situation was treated with humor by several users, but it raised an alert for the dangers of using this medicine without a prescription.
According to the electronic package insert from Anvisa (National Health Surveillance Agency), zolpidem is recommended for short-term treatment for insomnia, a problem that can be occasional (it happens occasionally), transient (passing) or chronic (present for a long time). .
BP psychiatrist – A Beneficência Portuguesa de São Paulo Leonardo H. Morita explains that the drug is mostly used by people who do not find it easy to start sleeping.
“[O zolpidem é indicado] when someone is traveling and with a time difference, and for whom, eventually, they are experiencing a problem and/or get anxious”, says the psychiatrist.
The drug starts to act in about 30 minutes and aims to induce sleep, reduce the number of times the individual wakes up during the night and increase the duration and quality of sleep.
The package insert emphasizes that zolpidem should be used under medical prescription and with caution. People under the age of 18, who have experienced sleepwalking or other unusual behaviors while not fully awake, such as eating, should not use the drug.
The document lists the most common side effects caused by zolpidem: drowsiness, headache, dizziness, cognitive disorders – such as anterograde amnesia (amnesia for events after taking the drug) – diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, pain in the back and fatigue.
In addition, the package insert warns that the drug can cause sleepwalking or other unusual behaviors, such as making a phone call without being fully awake. Although they seem simple, these situations have been associated with serious injuries and even death, as highlighted in the document provided by Anvisa.
“The risk of taking it without medical advice is, first, not being prepared for the possible side effects. The main side effect of zolpidem is sleepwalking. Many people end up waking up in the middle of the night, going to the bathroom or doing something else and simply don’t remember anything the next day”, highlights Morita.
The specialist also cites other situations experienced by those who use the medication: “The next day, people realize that they made purchases, called a thousand people, talked and did not remember anything. It is a medicine that, after the person has taken it, it is not advisable to do anything other than being in bed to sleep, you cannot take it and drive, for example”.
The professional reiterates that people often have visions that may seem like hallucinations, but are actually a state of sleepwalking. Therefore, it would be as if the person were daydreaming.
The ways to avoid the risks of the drug, according to Morita, are “to go back to bed, if you are not in it, and to try to concentrate to sleep again, because it will happen [o sonambulismo] while the medication is active in the body (about 4 hours). Care must be taken at this time, including the risk of falls.”
If the person has gone through any of the serious situations mentioned above, such as sleepwalking and hallucinations, the package insert recommendations are to discontinue treatment and contact a doctor or health worker directly.
* Intern at R7, under the supervision of Hysabella Conrado.
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