Brian Petitpren is seen in video celebrating a new life as he holds his godson for the first time.
“He just smiled all the time. He always had a positive attitude,” said John Petitpren, Brian's father.
But one month later, the successful, young businessman was dead.
“He walked up the inside staircase to the roof of the building, and then he just walked off the end of the building,” his father said.
John Petitpren says his son had been taking Ambien to help him sleep.
“This young man had so much life in him, and so much life ahead of him. It is frightening and it’s really hard to believe,” John says.
Three nights after Lauren Fuller, a mother of six, started taking Ambien, she found herself in handcuffs, charged with a DUI and a hit in run for hitting a hydrant in a sleep-driving stupor.
“The next thing I remember, I’m coming home from the police station,” Fuller said.
Attorney James Crawford says his client spun out of control on an airplane after taking “Sleepman Tablets”- another name for Ambien - prescribed to him in Hong Kong.
“He started screaming for his wife and kicking at the plane window. They ended up handcuffing and ducktaping him to hold him down,” Crawford said.
Susan Chana Lask calls them all “Ambien Zombies."
“It was horrific for me to see people walking around like ‘Night of the Living Dead,’" she said.
Lask is an attorney who filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Ambien users. She withdrew the suit after the FDA ordered stronger label warnings. She’s now writing a book about Ambien.
On YouTube, users document their Ambien antics, chronicling bizarre behavior. The sleep aid is also making tabloid headlines, liked to Heath Ledger, Tiger Woods, Patrick Kennedy. Actor Jack Nicholson says he almost drove off a cliff in an Ambien stupor.
While millions take Ambien without reporting any negative side effects, even the company that makes it says it’s not for everyone.
A spokeswoman for Sanofi-Aventis, the French drug company that makes Ambien, tells Fox it’s committed to patient health and safety and treats these matters with the “highest degree of importance,” but she says they are aware that sleepwalking or driving while not fully awake may occur and cautions that alcohol may increase these behaviors.
Linda Fuller says she was charged with a DUI, even though she doesn’t drink.
“She was basically a victim of Ambien,” said Fuller’s attorney, Amy McDonald.
“We are literally one nation under sedation. Americans consumed $4.5 billion worth of sedative hypnotics of sleep meds in 2009 alone,” said David Mayen, the program director for The Sleep Recovery Centers, which treat insomniacs with neuro-feedback instead of pills.
“Here we have a seamless process that allows people to get off those medications but still be able to maintain a better quality sleep then when they were on them,” Mayen says.
John Petitpren wishes more doctors would be less quick to dole out Ambien. He says the loss of his son has given him plenty of sleepless nights. And despite tougher warnings, he says it won’t make it right.
“How many more lives have to be so dramatically effected before something is done?”
sleeprecoverycenters.com or call 888-866-7378