911 dispatcher on Ambien plane crash caller: 'He ... sounded scared'
BELLEVUE (KOMO) -- Local dispatchers said it was one of the most bizarre calls they've gotten. After taking Ambien, a man in Renton hallucinated that he was in a plane crash and called 911. Dispatchers said they get similar calls more often than you might think.
Becky McCracken at the 911 Norcom dispatch center in Bellevue explained what happened when a 75-year-old grandfather from Renton called for help on May 12th.
"He was very calm during the call, but sounded scared," said McCracken.
The call went for 4 minutes. Then, silence. The man called back, told dispatch he was not in a crash, that he was on Ambien, and he dreamt it all.
"It sounds real. And I've listened to it a couple of times. I would never know it wasn't real," said McCracken.
The call sounded so real, 6 to 7 units responded, including several fire engines.
The 911 dispatch center said it often gets calls from people who are hallucinating or sleep walking because of sleeping pills.
"They don't realize it's not real. We talk to them like it is anyway. We get the basic info we need and determine what kind of help to send," said McCracken.
Dispatchers may not always know that the caller is hallucinating.
"If its heroin or alcohol, clearly it's a different situation. But these calls, you can't really tell unless they tell you that they're on something," said McCracken.
In the case of the imagined plane crash, the man admitted to dispatchers he was taking Ambien 15 minutes later after the call was first made.
The caller did not want to comment on camera but said that he's definitely concerned about the side effects of Ambien. He said he had taken half a tablet because he had surgery and had trouble sleeping.
A many people have expressed their own concerns with Ambien on social media and KOMO's Facebook page.
One woman she sleep-walked to a bar in the pouring rain.
Another one said she bought weird items on Amazon in her dream state, and she even went as far as cutting her hair.
Dr. Gandis Mazeika with Sound Sleep Health in Kirkland explained," All drugs have the potential of causing side effects and should be monitored by your physician."
He also went on to say that between 2005 and 2010, the number of ER visits related to Ambien tripled because it became so widely available. The most effected are women and people over the age of 45. In response to those increases, the Food and Drug Administration added new guidelines to decrease the dosage for women and seniors.