The bizarre behavior of sleeping pill Stilnox has gained widespread attention, after Australian Olympian Grant Hackett landed in the US for an urgent rehabilitation treatment.
The news comes just days after the 33-year-old former swimmer was spotted in a Melbourne hotel, partially naked and appearing confused and incoherent while looking for his lost son. His behavior has been widely linked to the side effects of the drug that he reportedly used to consume everyday.
Hackett is said to have fled to the US on Monday to seek rehab treatment, believed to be for his addiction to the controversial sleeping pill, even though he told reporters that he was in Los Angeles for rest and relaxation.
But according to his coach, Hackett has flown to the US for Stilnox rehab, News.com.au reported. The swimmer's father has also reportedly revealed that his son was the subject of a family intervention and was in "a little bit of denial".
In the past, the 33-year old has admitted that he has a serious problem with the drug. Towards the end of his swimming career, he even called it "evil".
Hackett is best known for winning the men's 1500 meters freestyle race at both the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
The prescription drug called Zolpidem, sold as Stilnox in Australia and Ambien in the US, is a known sedative-hypnotic drug. The medicine is prescribed for people suffering from insomnia but has been repeatedly linked to bizarre behavior, and sometimes even deaths.
The same drug was found in Australian actor Heath Ledger's apartment, after he died from a reported accidental overdose in New York in 2008. Stilnox is also reported to be used as a party drug by NRL football players and in bonding sessions between Olympic swimmers.
The manufacturer of the drug, Sanofi-Aventis, was taken to court in 2007 after the drug was found to be linked to bizarre behavior such as sleep eating and sleep driving. The company was then ordered to revise its warnings, to alert users of the potential hazard.
According to Stilnox's consumer medicine Information, the drug is linked to adverse effects although they are less common.
"Unexpected changes in behavior" has been included among possible side effects. "These have included rage reactions, confusion and other forms of unwanted behavior," it said.
"Sleep walking, driving motor vehicles and other unusual, and on some occasions dangerous, behavior whilst apparently asleep. These have also included preparing and eating food, making phone calls or having sexual intercourse. People experiencing these effects have had no memory of the events," it added.