March 30, 2013

War Stories: Rangers Flying On AMBIEN

As many soldiers have experienced, a trip to Iraq or Afghanistan can seem quite exhausting. In Ranger Battalion, we at least had the benefit of flying in a C-17, and could sleep on the floor once we hit cruising altitude. I felt sorry for the rest of the military that had to fly in commercial jets – confined to that tiny little seat with little to no leg room.

There is a 7 and 8.5 hour difference in time between Eastern Standard Time and the local times of Baghdad and Kabul. When our platoon arrived in country we generally would be out conducting missions within 24 hours of wheels on the ground. During many deployments we were also on a reverse schedule of sleeping throughout the day and conducting missions at night. We needed something to help us switch time zones without a hiccup.

One method that was used to get us comfortable with the time difference and make sure we were well rested was the administration of Zolpidem, more commonly known as AMBIEN. Once we boarded the aircraft, the medics would hand out two pills, one for the leg to Germany and the other for the leg to whichever hunting ground we were to reside.

This is what Sanofi, the makers of AMBIEN, have to say about their product:


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About the Author

I served in 3rd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment from 2003-2008. Almost four years of the time spent in 3/75 was spent in the sniper section. I am a graduate of US Army Airborne School, US Army Ranger School, US Army Sniper School, Special Forces Sniper Course, and the US Marine Corps Summer Mountain Scout Sniper Course. I have competed in the US Army International Sniper Competition as well as the US Army Small Arms Championships on three separate occasions. I currently live in Corvallis, Oregon and hold a Bachelors of Science in Biology from Oregon State University.

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  • Romadave

    BrendanDoran @Romadave I only ask because of another story here about guys hallucinating after days without sleep. And a friend who is a nurse told me some funny stories about docs and nurses who had been on duty at the ER for several days in a row. I'm guessing the results are different. Ambien stories sound more like how people act when they are hypnotized. I've seen similar behavior in hypnosis subjects. The funny thing about that is, they say you won't do anything when hypnotized that you wouldn't do in normal conditions if you had no inhibitions.

  • BrendanDoran

    Romadave - you asked HM1, but for my part NO.

  • Romadave

    @HM1 (FMF) Ret. preface by saying I'm a civilian and the closest I've gotten to any selection or deployment are the specials on history channel. That said, many of the selection courses seem to push the recruits to days of operating (dangerous weapons) on little sleep. I can understand the rationale because I'm sure it must be worse deployed. My question is, when soldiers are 'droning' during overnight drills and seem to be 'out on their feet' would you say the effect is similar to behavior on Ambien? Do the actions while on the drug remind you at all of the mental state of being awake and stressed for 5+ days?

  • badboy11b

    You'll read 4 parts I had to post since my original was so damn long.

  • badboy11b

    Yeah they also don't explain how Uncle Sam has no problems giving us drugs. I always thought Tizinidin helped me for a little bit with sleep. It is actually a muscle relaxer but Doctors will give as sleep aids to some people, and I believe it to be more on the safe side. Yes I've taken Trazadone but that really knocked me out with the pain narcotics they had me on. Ya see, that's really why I needed the sleep aid to begin with. After sustaining injuries I was on Oxycodone to Opana, Oxy being a devil drug and Opana being more of a vicodin but on roids, so meaning a lil stronger.... but still got the job done. Thankfully I work as a civilian now for the government and so I have health insurance, and am able to be provided with procedure shots, like cortisone. VA docs just wanted to keep giving pain killers, and my fellow Vets. WITHDRAW IS A BITCH!!!!! Not cause I was an addict, but because my body was now dependent on these drugs. Especially with the depression withdraw gives. It scares me to think of some of us who suffer with PTSD a little more than others, and then would have to go through a drug induced withdraw. Chances are they are going to want to kill themselves or want to kill someone else. No joking, I really thought some crazy shit you guys. A former grunt, and feeling you have no power, no control over yourself, because you have the flu times a thousand with every chill and heat and body cramp/ache you can imagine.