Know the side effects of drugs before taking them.

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Q: Ambien made me sleepwalk, sleep-eat and sleep-drive! I would wake up with food in my bed, not remembering anything that happened.

My mother said I would walk into the living room and start talking to her. I had no recollection this had happened.

A year ago, I woke in the hospital with a broken femur, ankle and patella, a fractured skull and a broken finger. I had been sleep-driving!

I never wear pajamas when I drive, but I had my pjs on when they found me, so I believe I went sleepwalking to the car, started driving and totaled my car into a tree!

A: We have heard from many others that sleep-driving may be a complication of using Ambien (zolpidem). A police officer shared the following: “I took one Ambien CR after a meal and went to bed. Some time after that I proceeded to get up, get dressed and leave my home in my personal vehicle. I was involved in a crash. As a result of the accident, I was arrested and lost my job.”

Ambien is not the only sleeping pill that may lead to bizarre behavior. According to the ad for Lunesta, “After taking Lunesta, you may get up out of bed while not being fully awake and do an activity that you do not know you are doing. The next morning, you may not remember that you did anything during the night. … Reported activities include: driving a car (‘sleep-driving’), making and eating food, talking on the phone, having sex, sleepwalking.”

We are sending you our Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep, in which we discuss the pros and cons of sleeping pills and offer several nondrug approaches.

Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (59 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. I-70, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Q: When I read in your column that a person was surprised that the blood-pressure pill lisinopril caused his constant cough, I just shook my head and wondered why people don’t know the side effects of the drugs they take. I take lisinopril, too, but when my doctor put me on it, I read the paperwork that listed adverse reactions.

I have found that you have to be very proactive with your health.

I research what I can or cannot eat with any of my prescribed medicines. I ask my doctor why I am on a medicine, and if I have read something negative about it, I ask if something else would be as good. I also know that questioning a pharmacist is often the best way to get a helpful answer about a medication.

A: We applaud your prudent approach and only wish others were as careful.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org