By Linda Melone
Some popular drugs may spark odd, unexpected reactions, like color blindness, deja vu and even compulsive gambling
Below, we list some of these unexpected side effects and suggest alternatives for those who might experience them. They are generally rare and non-life-threatening, but speak to your doctor or pharmacist and read consumer advisories for all your prescriptions to learn more.
"If you need a medication for a life-threatening infection or a progressive, disabling disease," Cohen says, "consider that and don't just deny yourself medication because of a rare side effect. The odds are you are not going to suffer a bizarre side effect, especially if you start at lower dosages and test the waters before diving in head first."
Unexpected side effect: sleep driving or eating
Like sleepwalking, sleep driving involves driving somewhere with no memory of the activity. Within a few days of starting to take this widely used sleep aid to treat insomnia, some people will sleep drive, carry on complex conversations, perform routine daily tasks, have sex or eat while asleep, with no memory of the experiences.
The behaviors often occur in the morning, because Ambien remains in your bloodstream even after you wake, says Zara Risoldi Cochrane, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. "For some people, these blood levels are high enough to cause carryover effects," she says, including, in some cases, sleep driving.
The rate of occurrence has not been measured, but it is believed to be rare. "The FDA has received about 700 reports of sleep driving in the 20 years since Ambien was approved," Cochrane says
"The changes are different in women and men," Dr. Ellis Unger of the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Drug Evaluation recently told ABCNews.com
. "We don't understand why yet, but women are more susceptible to next-morning impairment." In January, the agency advised doctors to reduce the prescribed dose
of Ambien for women from 10 mg to 5, and from 12.5 mg to 6.25 mg for extended-release products like Ambien CR. As an alternative, you could consider over-the-counter sleep aids or ask your doctor about adjusting your Ambien dosage.