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TEENS' 'ZOMBIE' PILL FAD


ABUSING AMBIEN


By SUSANNAH CAHALAN and SUSAN EDELMAN


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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 cocaine."

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 D.C.

"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."

susan.edelman@nypost.com



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