Driving While Ambien'd Prosecutor Gets Home Detention

Another driving while Ambien'd story in the news today: An elected District Attorney in Durango, Colorado was sentenced to 10 days of home detention (and loss of his driver's license.)

Craig Westberg, the DA for Archuleta, La Plata and San Juan counties, also must attend alcohol-education classes, perform 60 hours of public service and pay more than $3,000 in court costs and restitution for car damage.

....He was arrested in October 2007 after witnesses reported an erratic driver. Westberg has said he took an Ambien sleeping pill and left home to run an errand when his vision suddenly became blurred.

Patrick Kennedy got a better deal in his DWA (driving while ambien'd) ordeal: Rehab.

Here's a 2006 news article with statistics. [More...]

  • Ambien is one of the top 20 drugs found in the blood of drivers pulled over by Wisconsin police, says Laura Liddicoat, a supervisor of the forensic toxicology program at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene, who presented her findings at a February meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists. Ambien showed up in 187 drivers arrested by Wisconsin police from 1999 to 2004, according to a separate analysis by the state lab.
  • Ambien was linked to 99 traffic accidents reported to the Food and Drug Administration between 1998 and 2005, according to an analysis performed this month by Charles Bennett, a professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. Bennett notes that the total number of Ambien-related car accidents could be much higher, because, on average, only about 1% of drug problems are ever reported.
  • Nineteen patients were eating in their sleep after taking Ambien, according to a June 2005 article in the journal Sleep. One found a near-empty tub of margarine on her kitchen counter, with no idea who had devoured it overnight. Two started small fires while trying to cook.

And yes, Colin Powell, John McCain, Brian Williams and many other high-level politicos and professionals take Ambien. Doesn't everyone?

[Note on the photo: It was on an electronic billboard at baggage claim one year when I was picking up the TL kid. Apparently they were having a conference in Denver and welcoming their attendees, but I thought it such a strange thing to promote, I snapped the pic on my cell phone.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Bueracracy run amok... (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by kdog on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 12:45:27 PM EST
    and here's a perfect example..why is this guy being forced to attend alcohol-education classes?  He wasn't drunk, he was doped up on Ambien.  For all we know, he might not even drink.  

    If anything, shouldn't he be forced to attend pill-popper education classes?

    Hallucinations and vertigo (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by caseyOR on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 08:51:23 PM EST
    Several years ago my doctor prescribed ambien for me. While I don't think I ever ate a tub of margarine, I did have hallucinations and a very bad bout of vertigo. The vertigo sent me to the ER. My doctor then did a bit more research and discovered that both the vertigo and the hallucinations were listed as very, very, very rare possibilities. I immediately stopped the ambien.

    According to my doctor, once you have one of these many possible bad reactions to ambien, your chances of more bad reactions multiply. It is bad stuff.

    Yes... (none / 0) (#2)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 12:56:19 PM EST
    ...the Associated Professional Sleep Societies was a bit of a give-away as to the reason for the Ambien signage.  

    In fact, I should look into them--I've always wanted to be a professional sleeper.  Not nearly the demand for mattress testers as I had hoped as a kid.

    I'm sure glad I have better things than Ambien though.

    Much better things... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 01:09:04 PM EST
    who needs blurry vision and sleep-cooking as side effects when you can have euphoria and a desire for Devil Dogs as a side effect from nature's sleep aid?

    Devil Dog? (none / 0) (#24)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 04:42:22 PM EST
    I'm assuming that is some sort of fancy Long Island bakery item and not a Marine?

    I only know from Tastykakes as East Coast goodies go...


    Drakes Cakes (none / 0) (#25)
    by squeaky on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 04:58:13 PM EST
    The company's founder, Newman E. Drake, baked his first pound cake in Brooklyn in 1888. He sold it by the slice. Popularity increased, and soon a whole line of cakes was produced. The company's operations eventually spread to 13 states. This remote presence was because of the many people from the north who retired and moved to Florida. Drake's were at one time perhaps the only kosher snack cakes on the market; as most other bakers used lard (rendered hog fat) or beef tallow (even though this fat can be obtained from kosher beef, it rarely is, and in any event animal fat is still forbidden under kosher laws to be used with the dairy products commonly used in baking). In New York City and New England, Drake's became perhaps the most popular snack cake, rivaling national brand Hostess. In New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, they also rival that area's popular Tastykake brand.


    Throughout its history, Drake's Cakes have attempted to expand to other areas, either through third party distribution deals, or shipping frozen cakes to far away areas, as was being done for Florida.

    But expansion seemed to be difficult. In 1989, Drake's could be found as far away as Southern California, through a deal with a local distributor for the Von's supermarket chain.



    Drakes Cakes Rock!!!... (none / 0) (#30)
    by kdog on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 08:24:34 AM EST
    Thanks for the history lesson squeaky, Devil Dogs are the cadillac of the Drakes' line of fine baked snacks.

    Yes, I Agree About Drakes (none / 0) (#38)
    by squeaky on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 01:09:09 PM EST
    I grew up on Yodels, occasional RingDing, never big on DevilDogs.
    Almost everyday after school, I ate a couple of Yodels, eating the chocolate coating first and then unraveling them munching all along with a large glass of cold milk.

    Sometimes at a friends I would eat Devil Dogs, also great with cold milk.


    Ah, Drake's. (none / 0) (#31)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 09:37:01 AM EST
    If I recall, there was an episode of Seinfeld (or two/?) that revolved around Drake's Cake.

    If I ever get my arse... (none / 0) (#32)
    by kdog on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 09:41:49 AM EST
    out your way Mile I'm bringing a box of Devil Dogs with your name on it man.

    Heaven in cellaphane:)


    No chocolate for me... (none / 0) (#33)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 10:03:04 AM EST
    ...on the new diet, unfortunately.  Now, if they have a Twinkie-like product, that would work.  

    I can enjoy one with my teeny-tiny daily ration of milk.


    We have Little Debbie too... (none / 0) (#36)
    by kdog on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 10:23:26 AM EST
    they only sell when Drakes is out of stock:)...I find Debbie too sugary.

    Sorry about that Mile...didn't mean to rub it in.  They have Sunny Doodles, a yellowcake-esque cupcake with cream filling, no chocolate.  I'll make it a box of those if I ever catch that Greyhound:)


    Not a problem at all. (none / 0) (#37)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 10:29:32 AM EST
    I don't miss the chocolate nearly as much as my cow juice.  

    On freakin' cold Rocky Mountain Winter days like today, I sure would like to have a nice hot cup of cocoa right about now.  Oh well, the black coffee with have to do.


    Is anyone aware of correlation (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 12:56:24 PM EST
    sbudies on Ambien such as those done re alcohol?  Also, any info on how long one Ambien remains in the blood stream, brain cells, etc.?  Is it measuarable?  

    Ambien specifically warns (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by Fabian on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 01:12:56 PM EST
    against doing ANYTHING but going straight to bed after dosing.  Ambien is a sedative and an amnesiac.  (I'm somewhat surprised it hasn't found the same off label use as rohypnol.  aka "roofie" aka "date rape drug")

    If we could charge someone with Driving While Stoopid, this guy would be a prime example.

    People, please read all the information that comes with prescription and over the counter meds.  It could save you a bundle in legal fees and the loss of your driver's license.


    I'm thinking of how much time one needs (none / 0) (#11)
    by oculus on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 01:16:15 PM EST
    to allow after taking an Ambien (and getting a good night's sleep) before driving a motor vehicle.  For example:  take Ambien, get six hours sleep on an airplane, go through baggage claim, customs, car rental, and then drive.  

    I can report from personal experience (none / 0) (#15)
    by andgarden on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 01:40:13 PM EST
    that Ambien--which I love--isn't strong enough to put me to sleep on a plane.

    So far Ambien is the only thing (none / 0) (#17)
    by oculus on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 01:51:38 PM EST
    that has put me asleep on airplanes.  Except an early morning flight!

    Westberg had a prior DUI (none / 0) (#4)
    by rdandrea on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 12:59:10 PM EST
    Albeit 30 years ago.

    10-days home detention for (none / 0) (#5)
    by oculus on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 01:04:27 PM EST
    stupidity seems excessive.

    Perhaps... (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 01:08:07 PM EST
    ...but there are certainly worse places to be homebound than Telluride.  

    Sh*t... (none / 0) (#8)
    by kdog on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 01:09:56 PM EST
    if he's got an Ambien left those 10 days should fly by.

    But my brother tells me it's (none / 0) (#9)
    by oculus on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 01:11:44 PM EST
    snowing.  Sheer torment to be home bound if he's a skier.

    No more torment... (none / 0) (#12)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 01:17:01 PM EST
    ...than me being stuck inside of a windowless conference room at work while the snow flies.  

    It is very, very cold and windy though--not the best conditions for skiing.


    Actually, this is his third DUI conviction (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by rdandrea on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 01:21:43 PM EST
    I went back to the Durango Herald article.  His sentence was pretty light for a 3rd DUI in his jurisdiction.  Plus, there is a deferral.  His conviction disappears in 18 months if he doesn't violate his probation.  He did much better than, say, the average Fort Lewis College kid.

    According to the Herald:

    Durango public defenders Tom Williamson and Christian Champagne took umbrage with the sentence.The standard plea agreement for third-time DUI offenses in this district is 30 to 90 days jail, said Williamson, who attended Wednesday's hearing. Deferred judgments are almost never given in such circumstances, he said.

    And Westberg is from Durango.  Telluride is San Miguel County.


    Yes, I have Telluride on the brain (none / 0) (#14)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 01:23:38 PM EST
    for some reason today.  Durango isn't a bad place to be holed-up either.

    At least in California, as I recall, (none / 0) (#18)
    by oculus on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 01:53:25 PM EST
    a DUI doesn't count as a prior for sentencing purposes if it is XXX years old.  I'm thinking X=5.

    The Photo (none / 0) (#16)
    by squeaky on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 01:46:57 PM EST
    Is odd. Reminds me of a Soma advert in Brave New Word.

    I don't really know (none / 0) (#19)
    by Steve M on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 02:31:20 PM EST
    what Ambien is.  A sleeping pill or something?  Maybe everyone but me takes it.

    It seems quite dangerous to me, from a tort perspective, to be a manufacturer of sleeping pills.  I mean, if I get hit by a driver under the influence of this stuff, I know who the deep pocket is.

    Wouldn't (shouldn't) the "deep pocket" (none / 0) (#20)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 02:40:39 PM EST
    be the driver's ins. co?

    Although, I suppose, it could be that the driver's and Ambien's ins. cos are one and the same...


    Well (none / 0) (#26)
    by Steve M on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 05:58:45 PM EST
    if you can get full compensation within the limits of the driver's policy, no worries.  But it's not that hard to imagine a legal theory that goes something like, you were aware that there have been X reported cases of Ambien-related accidents, my client's injury was completely foreseeable to you, yet you continued to market this dangerous product out of corporate greed, blah blah blah.  I mean, I'm confident such cases have already been filed.

    And this would be bad because....? (none / 0) (#27)
    by Lora on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 06:29:52 PM EST
    What if they are marketing a dangerous product out of corporate greed?

    Well (none / 0) (#28)
    by Steve M on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 06:43:23 PM EST
    I am not making a normative judgment one way or the other :)

    Apparently a lot of people (none / 0) (#21)
    by Fabian on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 03:59:22 PM EST
    need help getting to sleep.

    Fortunately, my nervous system isn't wired that way and I get by with caffeine rationing for the most part.

    The amusing thing about Ambien is that apparently its amnesiac effect helps some people to think they've had a solid night's sleep even if they've been awake for part of it.  In other words, it fools them into thinking it works because they don't remember being awake.

    It doesn't work that way for everybody - but how the heck do you know what you can't remember?


    Lawyer: How long were you unconcious? (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by oculus on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 04:02:00 PM EST
    Unsafe (none / 0) (#23)
    by Lora on Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 04:13:54 PM EST
    Ambien is unsafe and should be pulled, IMO.  However, it is big bucks so that is unlikely to happen.

    Yes, on the ambien package (none / 0) (#35)
    by DancingOpossum on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 10:12:09 AM EST
    It clearly states to ONLY take it if you are going to get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. It says it in big bold letters and all over the warning sheet. You could only miss it if you wanted to, or were exceptionally reckless about the pills you take.

    I don't take it, or any other medication, but my bf swears by it. Yet if he knows he's not going to get the full eight hours, he cuts the pill in half.

    The warning also tells you not to take it with alcohol, a warning that many people I know who take Ambien ignore. That isn't the pill's fault.

    I'm really tired of people driving drunk, stupid, or plowed on some other drug(s) acting all wide-eyed and blaming a prescription drug when they endanger other people's lives.