Sunday, February 24, 2013

Stilnox: My experience

That horrid sleep drug Stilnox is back in the media again after it came to light that the Australian men's Olympic swim team had used it to get high before competing in London last year.

What the f-word (as Noo would say)?

Stilnox is a horrible drug. I've had a fair bit of experience with hypnotic prescription medications such as the benzodiazpines Zanax, tempazepam, Valium and I even once took half a Rohypnol, but never did I feel more out of control as I did when I was on Stilnox.

Stilnox has been linked to up to 91 deaths in Australia
"including 31 poisonings and two falls from great heights involving abrupt or bizarre behaviour".

Don't get me wrong, it felt good at the time, but the next day I felt like shit. I couldn't move my limbs because they felt so heavy. So much so that I had to call in sick for work. I had only the vaguest recollection of the night before and when I checked the Stilnox box I discovered I'd taken four tablets, instead of one. That was the scary bit.

I was staying at my boyfriend's place at the time. I was supposed to just take one tablet and go to sleep but it must have felt really good and I swallowed another. I remember feeling like I was on a floating bed on the sea. I felt chilled out and relaxed and euphoric, kind of like being on ecstasy but without the speedy edge. I must have taken the other two not long after and floated around until I passed out. I was just lucky I was in a safe place.

I actually didn't take the drug to get high. I was prescribed it by my regular GP as a sleep aid for my first flight to London. In the week leading up to my departure I was anxious as hell. I was about to relocate to the other side of the world and I was leaving Australia for the first time in my adult life.

In 2003 when I had been prescribed Stilnox I'd never heard of it. I had a routine appointment with my doctor to get all my check ups done, like a pap smear and breast check, before heading off to the UK. I asked my doctor for some help to sleep on my 24 hour flight across the world. My doctor told me Stilnox was considered the better drug over tempazepam because it wasn't as addictive.

I'm pretty sure that advice has changed over the last decade as more research comes to light suggesting that Stilnox is not a safe drug. In this article from the Sydney Morning Herald the misunderstanding that Stilnox is the safer than benzos is discussed further.

When the time finally came for me to leave my family and friends and head overseas I had my trusty little pack of goodies in my bag for the flight: lip balm, moisturiser, magazines, and Stilnox. In the airport I was desperate not to cry. I was doing possibly the most scariest thing I'd ever done and my anxiety was through the roof.

As soon as I was seated on the aircraft and the seatbelt sign was turned off I proceeded to make my way through several Jack Daniels and dry. The aircraft was half empty which was a blessing as I was seated in economy. I had three seats to myself and I remember stretching my legs out across them, bourbon in hand, while watching the movies after having popped a Stilnox and waited for sleep to take over. I just wanted to close my eyes and wake up at Heathrow.

Just as was my previous experience I didn't fall asleep. I was careful on that first leg as I knew I had to disembark in Singapore and then reboard for the final stretch to London so I only took one pill. I drank a shitload though. Free booze, what can I say?

Back on board and I was determined to sleep the remaining 12 or however many hours it was until we arrived in London. Still alone in my aisle I continued to drink and pop pills. I vaguely remember sloshing bourbon all over myself and asking the crew for cloths to wipe myself down. I must have been a right sight.

Next thing I knew I was asking for yet another bourbon and dry when I was curtly told by the cabin crew that we were shortly to arrive at LHR and would I please take my seat for landing. But we were just in Singapore! We'd only just left, hadn't we? How could we possibly be flying through British airspace already?

Confused and bewildered I sat down. Looking out the window it was clear that it was in fact morning and I had arrived in the country that was to be my home for the next two years. Scary.

I have never taken Stilnox on a flight since or in any other situation and I never will again.

Now, back to those silly swimmers, what were they thinking? All those taxpayers dollars to send those kids over to London to compete for Olympic Gold and they spend their "bonding" time wasted on Stilnox and Red Bull. Not good, fellas. Not good.

Have you ever tried that evil drug? What was your experience? What do you think about our Aussie swim team living it large on prescription meds and energy drinks?

Hope you're all having a great weekend.



Kathryn OHalloran said...

You know sleeping pills don't work if you drink with them, right. Well they work for making you "relaxed" but not sleeping. I've never taken Stilnox but have taken a lot of other pills. The best thing I've taken was my nan's high strength serapax - slept like a baby. Temazapan made me drowsy but not able to sleep so I just got extra cranky.

The Babbling Bandit said...

Yeah, sleeping pills and alcohol don't mix. I was nervous as anything and trying to block the lot out. The first time I took Stilnox though I wasn't drinking. I can easily take two temazepam and it has little to no effect on me.

I don't think I've every had serapax although I've heard they are good. Mogadon was a waste of time for me too. Halcyan is another benzo in that group. They make you drowsy, but they don't give that sense of loss of control like Stilnox does. For me anyway.

The hangover from Stilnox is definitely way more pronounced than the others.

Aly said...

I don't think you can judge a sleeping tablet that you clearly abused. I take Stillnox occasionally, and find it great! It has no hangover, but I get a good 6 hours sleep or so. I am worried that so many people using it as their excuse for bad behaviour will get it banned or something and it will affect all of those of us that use it correctly. Already you can only get 14 in a prescription rather than 28 or 30.

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The Babbling Bandit said...

I'm sure, like most drugs of this type, they have different effects on different people. If you read the other articles I've linked to several of the deaths that have been blamed on Stilnox were of people who had no history of drug addiction or abuse.

But I think that you have made a fair call, Aly. Stilnox is getting a bad rap in the media because athletes have abused it to get high, rather than use it for its prescribed purpose - to help with insomnia.

I wonder if I were to take Stilnox now that I have been sober off other drugs/alcohol for five years would it have the same affect on me as it did when I was a heavy drinker/recreational drug taker. I probably won't find out but it is an interesting thought.

Thanks for your comment.

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