Ambien: Sweet Dreams or Nightmare? Prescribers-Pete Birch

Pete Birch

Pete Birch didn't use to have conversations with inanimate objects. At least not till he started taking Ambien.

How He Got on Ambien

Birch, 23, began prescribing after a bout of insomnia-driven nights. He said he wouldn’t sleep for two or three days, then he’d get about four hours of sleep one night and go another two or three days without sleeping, starting the cycle all over again.

Birch said the constant thoughts running through his mind were the source of the problem. He finally went to his doctor and told him what was happening. Birch’s doctor recommended Ambien and prescribed him two prescriptions for 10 pills each. He told Birch to take them every night. Birch did and his sleep improved greatly.

“The biggest issue I was having was that all these thoughts just kept running through my mind, and Ambien took care of that,” Birch said.

Birch’s doctor gave him another three or four prescriptions for 30 pills each but warned him to only take them when it was absolutely necessary or else he could become dependent. Birch heeded his doctor's warning. He didn’t want to run the risk of becoming addicted.

Since then, Birch has only had a few bizarre episodes while on the medication. He said the hallucinations only happen if you don’t go to sleep immediately after taking the pill. He said Ambien doesn’t necessarily make you feel drowsy. It just clears your thoughts and makes you lucid.

“It’s like your mind is asleep but your body’s still awake,” Birch described the medication’s effects.



Of all the unusual things Birch has done on Ambien, one stands out in his mind.

He said one night he was watching TV at a friend’s house alone in a room. He didn’t actually know he was alone, though.

Birch began having a conversation with the “person” standing next to him. He talked to them for about 15 minutes, and their conversation even escalated into an argument. It wasn’t until they finished that Birch realized he had been talking to his snowboard the whole time.

Another incident came when he was watching a newscaster on the television, when, according to Birch, the newscaster’s nose began to grow, come out of the TV and tickle his leg. He said the newscaster proceeded to talk to him, ask him why he was still up and tell him he should go to sleep.

Birch said these episodes were few and far between because he learned to lock himself in his room, lay down and try to go to bed as soon as he took his Ambien. He also said it seemed like the medication would wear off three or four hours after taking it, and he didn’t want to waste what he had. He really did have sleeping problems that needed to be fixed.

Recreational Users

Birch, who is the administrator of the Facebook group, “i had a crazy night on ambien,” said he gets the impression that some of the group's members are not so savvy on forcing themselves to go to bed right after they take the pill. He even gets the impression that some of them are using the drug recreationally, using it to intentionally induce hallucinations.

Birch warns these recreational users to be cautious of the medication's effects and stay responsible.