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Ambien driving?

10:21 AM, Jan 3, 2013   |    comments
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(File photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

ATLANTA -- It's estimated that Americans will fill about 60 million prescriptions for sleeping pills like Ambien in 2013.

One study shows even occasional use of sleeping pills can increase your chances of getting in a car crash.

Ambien and its generic counterpart Zolpidem are among the most commonly prescribed sleeping aids. They can stay in your system for up to 12 hours. Most effects are minor, but less common side effects known as complex sleep related behaviors can cause concern.

"That's the sleep driving, the eating without awareness and the sleep walking," said Dr. Jessical Vensal Rundo with the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center.

Kerry Kennedy took Ambien and side-swiped a truck.

"I remember getting on the highway, and then I have no memory," she said.

The drug was also in the system of her cousin, former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, when he crashed into a concrete barrier in 2006.

In Texas, a woman who mixed Ambien and alcohol had no memory of running over two young girls and their mother.

A southern Illinois man took four Ambien just 12 hours before he drove into a highway construction crew, killing one man and injuring three others.

"It's actually just as bad as drinking and driving," said Dr. Deborah McAvoy, a researcher at Ohio State University who studies drowsy driving.

Dr. David Shulman, Director of the Emory Sleep Program, joined 11Alive News Today Thursday to talk about the dangers of drowsy driving.

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