Substance: Zolpidem (Ambien) and diphenhydramine
Experience: very experienced
Setting: My home
March 8, 2007
Let me start by saying this was not meant to be a fun experience. This was not a recreation attempt. It was something I have done before and never anything occur. Whatever caused the events which follow is unknown, but they are extreme and bizarre enough that I felt it warranted a write upÖ or maybe I should call it a warning.
I am prescribed Ambien for my chronic insomnia. On an average night without taking large doses of diphenhydramine (100mg and up) I will not fall asleep until I have been awake at least 30 hours. I take Ambien on the night when I need to be awake early, basically to just chemically knock myself out. I have combined them before when I felt particularly stimulated, i.e.: my mind wouldnít stop racing. Never before have I had the effects which follow.
Also, it should be noted the time line is estimated, as my memory of the time is fuzzy, but the events are crystal clear.
12:30 AM - I swallow 15mg of Ambien (I need this dose as I have a slight tolerance) and 100mg of diphenhydramine. I have taken this exact dose before, and know it usually has me asleep within the hour.
1:00 AM - I feel a slight sedation. I decide I should get in bed in a moment, but Iím reading something online that has me interested, and I donít want to turn away.
1:30 AM - I finish reading and get in bed. I put on a DVD of the Simpsons, which I usually do when going to sleep. For some reason though, Iím not feeling quite as tired as I usually do. I decide to just lay still and wait for sleep to come.
2:00 AM - An episode is over and Iím still awake. The TV screen is starting to look a little funny, but I dismiss it as I know if you stay awake after taking Ambien, minor hallucinations are common. As Iím waiting to next episode to watch, I hear a voice quietly calling my name. I sit up in bed and look around the room. I currently live in a finished basement, so it is a fairly large place. As I scan the room, I notice something moving in the distance. This causes a child like reaction of throwing the covers over my head. I start laughing knowing that nothing is there.
2:05 AM - After a few minutes under the covers I poke my head back out and gasp. There is a face that just darted behind my couch. I quickly scan the room, and I see another face. It is darkened, but I can make out the features distinctly, like a shadow with eyes, a nose, and mouth. I turn my head again and see yet another face, this one belonging to a full body person sitting on my couch. I shout out for these things to ďGo Away!Ē and ďLeave me alone!Ē but they only move, quietly talking to one another while staring at me. I jump up and turn on the light.
2:10 AM - In the lit room I see that nobody is there. In place of person behind my couch, it was simply my hat on the top. And the full body person on the couch, well, that was simply my jacket that I tossed up.
2:11 AM - I get back in bed and turn to the TV. At this point I am a nervous wreck. I donít understand what is going on. The memory of taking Ambien is no longer there, and I canít for the life of me understand why I am being attacked by these creatures. I take a few deep breaths to try calm myself.
2:15 AM - A voice is calling to me again, and it is getting closer. I sink down hiding my head under the covers. The voice is now joined by several more, all calling my name. Whatever is speaking to me is getting closer and closer. Finally, at the peak of my terror, I feel something grab my leg. I scream very loudly (and cannot believe that I did not wake anyone).
2:16 AM - Something inside me snaps. I may be terrified, but in war people have to face there own fear and move forwards. Thatís exactly what I must do here. I throw off my covers ready to fight the intruders. As soon as I get up though, I see they have all moved back to their original positions, and are no longer closing in on me. I stare them down, and count nine people total. Realizing that this was impossible, I began to question my sanity. Perhaps I had been developing schizophrenia and hadnít noticed. Maybe I was dying and didnít understand it. Whatever was happening, I could no longer handle it. I needed to be grounded.
2:17 AM - I call my girlfriend ďRĒ and start talking. As I am speaking I remember the people beginning to slowly fade to nothingness. However, my memory of the conversation does not exist. Perhaps my cognitive process completely shut down at this point. Nothing for the remainder of the night exists in my memory.
However, I spoke to R today and she filled me in on what we had said to each other.
She told me I had truly frightened her. She said I was babbling about hallucinating and people in my room coming for me. She also says that speaking to me was like talking to a wall. Saying something didnít guarantee I would respond, and if I did, she said I spoke mostly gibberish she couldnít make sense of. I apologized thoroughly to her, but she still seemed angry out of concern. Apparently I told her that I had combined Ambien and diphenhydramine, but I donít remember that. I seem to have selective amnesia for the event.
I can honestly say that despite how ridiculous this story is, it is completely true. I have always made a point of being honest in my reports, and this is no exception. But why did this happen? This question has lingered with me all day. I really have no answer though. I have taken 20mg of Ambien with 100mg of diphenhydramine, and not had any reaction like this at all. Maybe the fact that I didnít do as the hypnotic sedative instructed me to by ignoring its first signs and continuing reading. I also question what effects the diphenhydramine had, if any. I have read that at high doses it cause delirium, which actually would probably explain everything. Except, of course, that I have taken as much as 200mg before and never felt anything like this. Perhaps there was a certain synergy that caused this. I am unclear at this time.
Regardless of what caused this, it was the most frightening chemically experience I have ever had. I have had terrifying trips on LSD, psilocybin, and DPT where I had the feeling of (and this is hardly scientific) ďOh fuck, I finally ruined my brainĒ. In all those events though, I could maintain sanity by reminding myself that I had taken a drug, and that its effects would pass no matter how intense and frightening they would be. This was not the case with this event. I had lost the memory of taking the drug, and I truly felt I was going completely insane. It is a good thing I donít own weapons, as the though of myself firing a .357 Magnum at these phantoms could have been all too real. This was the most frightening drug experience I have had.
This is somewhat embarrassing to write about; how a veteran of the psychedelic world like me could be reduced to an infantile state. I am almost frightened to retake Ambien now. However, Iím sure that it could have all been avoided had I simply gotten into bed when I felt those first twinges of chemical action. I write this more as a warning of what can happen. I hope this was an interesting read, and please, be careful.