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McCain's Ambien Use: a Security Threat? Memory-Linked Side Effects; Most Doctors Unconcerned

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In a presidential race marked by references to preparedness in the face of the 3 a.m. call, the revelation that presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain has taken the sleeping pill Ambien during his travels raises concerns that the rare side effects of the medication could impair his judgment.

While most sleep experts agree that McCain's occasional use of Ambien will not pose a major concern, they say planning is key when it comes to taking the sleep medication.

"Taking more than the recommended dosage of Ambien or combining it with other sedative-hypnotics — for example, alcohol — may result in amnesia, fugue states and sleep walking," said Dr. Peter A. Fotinakes, medical director of the St. Joseph Sleep Disorders Center in Orange, Calif. "Used appropriately, Ambien is a relatively safe medication."

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