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Risky sleeping pills may be overprescribed

Most of our readers have heard of the sleep drug Ambien, as well as the risks associated with it. These risks include dizziness and drowsiness, and in more serious cases depression, suicidal thoughts, aggressive behavior and anxiety. The sedative effect of the drug is increased when the drug is mixed with alcohol and other drugs.                                                       

Ambien is fairly widely used in the United States, enough that its use results in thousands of emergency room visits every year. In fact, the number of ER visits connected to use of Ambien and similar drugs has almost doubled over the past ten years. This is at least partly attributed to strong efforts to advertise the drug directly to consumers, as well as over-prescription of sleeping pills containing zolpidem, the active ingredient in Ambien.

Part of the danger in taking drugs like Ambien is that their effects can still be felt the next day, making it unsafe to drive or engage in other activities where alertness is required. The Food and Drug Administration has been successful in pushing lower recommended doses of the drug and in issuing a new warning label, but many people continue taking the drug to their own risk, often unnecessarily.

Doctors, of course, have the responsibility of only prescribing medications which are appropriate for the circumstances of their patients, and they must use their discretion in this. Unfortunately, doctors can fall into lapses of judgment and prescribe medications which are inappropriate in amounts which are inappropriate, and this can lead to unnecessary risk and harm for patients. Those who are harmed by a doctor who over-prescribes medication can and should expect to be compensated for injuries connected to that negligence.

Source:, “Emergency Room Visits for Ambien Problems Nearly Doubled: Study,” Martha Garcia, August 28, 2014. 

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