The autopsy of John Rodman Steele, the Highland Park businessman and community leader who attacked his family then stabbed himself to death last July 11, showed traces of a sleeping aid called Ambien — or the ingredient zolpidem, that is found in many sleep aids, including Ambien, in his body. I had heard this from friends of the family shortly after the stabbing incident that took place in this home on Cornell. Steele was having trouble sleeping and asked his doctor for medication. The Dallas Morning News (Sub. req.) reports that Steele was being treated by a mental health professional for depression and to help free himself from a dependence on Vicodin, a strong prescription pain reliever many people get addicted to when it is prescribed for chronic pain. Naturally, investigators have talked to his psychiatrist. Mrs. Steele, Dina, also told police that she and her husband were “having financial issues.” There was no Vicodin found in his system in the autopsy.
There are documented cases of people doing strange things while under the influence of Ambien: sleepwalking, acting strangely, almost trance-like, hypnotic behavior. One person cooked and had no memory of frying an egg. Supposedly, you drive or start calling people and have no memory of it. The few times I’ve taken immediate-release Ambien, I had terrible dreams. Ambien (zolpidem) is a sedative, also (appropriately) called a hypnotic. It affects chemicals in your brain that may become unbalanced and cause insomnia. No wonder I had nightmares!
There is immediate-release Ambien that just helps you fall asleep. Then there is extended-release form, Ambien CR, with a first layer that dissolves quickly to help you fall asleep, and a second layer that keeps you knocked out. This is the form that I have heard about causing memory lapse. Not sure which one this poor man was taking. His family must be in so much pain! And you cannot help but wonder if this case will make the FDA take a serious look at Ambien.
Merely days after the Steel family tragedy, Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, the daughter of Robert Kennedy and ex-wife of New York governor Andrew Cuomo, had a car wreck with a tractor-trailer and was arrested for driving while impaired. Kennedy has no history of alcohol or substance abuse, and she says she THINKS she took an Ambien — problem is, she doesn’t remember. A criminal defense attorney told ABC Ambien has a short half-life — he must be talking about the immediate release form —so it did not show up in Kennedy’s blood tests, which showed no signs of drugs or alcohol.
Our hearts go out to the Steele family. Perhaps knowing what caused this terrible tragedy can bring some peace to their hearts!