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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2011;39(4):535-42.

"I did what?" Zolpidem and the courts.

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  • 1University of California San Francisco, San Francisco General Hospital, 1001 Potrero Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.


Zolpidem is a widely prescribed nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic medication available in the United States since 1992. Attention has been drawn recently to its potential to cause sleep-related, complex behaviors such as sleepwalking and sleep driving. These automatic behaviors have led to a deluge of legal claims. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first review in the forensic literature of the legal ramifications of zolpidem. In this article, the medical literature will be reviewed to explore the current understanding of zolpidem's specific psychopharmacology. Case law will be explored to determine how the courts have handled the claims surrounding sleep-related, complex behaviors alleged to be caused by zolpidem. Finally, a summary of recommendations will be provided for forensic psychiatrists who are asked to be experts in these cases.

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