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The Risks Of Sleeping Pills

There are a lot of medications to treat insomnia. Unfortunately, they generally have risky side-effects.
A doctor of internal medicine, Marc Leavey, MD, confirms this and warns that when they are used “improperly, you can have problems.” Before choosing to use sleeping pills, read up on the pills and potential problems.



Cancer And Death
According to a 2012 study published in the BMJ Open, subjects who used prescription sleeping pills were more apt to get cancer or die than those individuals who did not use them. While Leavey believes this requires more research, he agrees with the authors of the study that a treatment that aids in changing thinking patterns, “cognitive behavioral therapy,” could work better than drugs in the treatment of chronic insomnia.



Driving Drowsy
Recent research reveals that those who use the sleeping pill zolpidem or Ambien could very well have enough of the drug remaining in their systems in the morning to actually impair operating an automobile. The data indicates the women, as well as anyone who uses extended-release types of the drug, is especially at risk. Because of this the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) currently requires the manufacturers to reduce the “recommended dose” for women and to suggest to all physicians that they reduce the dose for men as well. If your doctor prescribes sleeping pills such as Ambien, follow his directions to avoid the risk of next-day drowsiness. Don’t even take them unless you have a good seven hours to sleep.


Erratic Behavior Side Effects
Prescription sleeping pills, especially benzodiazepines like triazolam, have a reputation of causing such side effects amnesia and sleepwalking. Leavey confirms that if you use this drug you really “won’t know where you are” when you awaken. Studies report that this can also happen to those who use newer drugs such as Ambien. If your significant other tells you that you behave strangely while on sleeping pills alert your physician immediately.


Falling Down
According to a study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, patients who were given zolpidem were four times more apt to fall down than patients who were not given the drug while in the hospital. Certain drugs can dull your system so that your center of gravity is thrown off. Older people are especially at risk of falling when taking sleeping pills.


You Can Build Up A Tolerance
When you take any medication--including sleeping pills--over a period of time, your system becomes accustomed to the drug. You eventually will require higher and still higher doses in order to get the same effect. Unfortunately, taking high enough dose could, in this case, lead to what is known as depressed breathing while you sleep. This can result in death. To reduce the risk of this side-effect, do not use sleeping pills for more than two weeks at the most.


You May Have Trouble Weaning Off Sleeping Pills
Once you start using sleeping pills, it might be hard to stop. The longer you take them, the harder it could be. There are those who even experience “rebound insomnia” which is when your sleep troubles become worse once you stop taking the pills. Before you stop taking sleeping pills or any other medication, however, you should first speak with your doctor and set up a schedule to gradually lower the dosage instead of going “cold turkey.”



(All photographs are courtesy of the original owners unless otherwise indicated)

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