May 14, 2006 -- A growing number of city
high-school and college kids are popping Ambien - the drug
Rep. Patrick Kennedy blamed, in part, on his car crash - not
to sleep, but to party.
The insomnia medication, known as "zombie pills,"
"tic-tacs" and "A-minus," has become popular at house parties
and nightclubs, sources told The Post.
The prescription sleeping pill is illegally sold by
Internet drugstores, peddled outside Big Apple nightclubs and
even bartered on Craigslist.
One desperate user offered his X-rated DVDs. "You give me
Ambien, I'll give you porn," he wrote.
At the street price of $5 a pill, young people are gobbling
Ambien for relaxation, euphoria and hallucinations.
Partyers also take Ambien with booze, pot and other pills -
a dangerous combination, doctors say - to get a stronger high.
One Long Island 17-year-old said he and his friends take
four to five times the recommended dose.
"When I mixed Ambien with pot, I stayed awake and had
slight hallucinations," he said. "But when I mixed it with
alcohol, I was really screwed up."
Ambien is easy to get, the teen said, because it's commonly
prescribed to people on antidepressants. "There are tons of
teenagers on Long Island who get antidepressants, so Ambien is
everywhere," he said.
The "zombie" fad worries doctors.
"I have patients who abuse Ambien to get a buzz," said Dr.
Richard Frances, a NYU psychiatry professor who treats
substance abusers. "I see a lot people who take Ambien with
other drugs - mainly to come down from stimulants like
Some Ambien users get addicted, Frances added.
The sleeping pill is the target of a growing class-action
lawsuit in Manhattan federal court that claims the pills
caused bizarre "zombie-like" behavior - including reckless
driving and binge eating.
Kennedy blamed Ambien as a factor in his May 5 crash in
"We have tons of people who wake up on the jailhouse floor,
thinking 'How did I get here?' " said lawyer Susan Chana Lask,
who represents 500 in the suit.
"Many burn their hands on the stove, eat weird things - one
lady made a sandwich with ice cream, syrup and pretzels - and
have wild sex with their spouses or other people."