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Sleeping Pills Increase Car Accident Risk

August 17, 2015

A study recently published in the American Journal of Public Health discussed the negative effects sleeping pills may have on safe driving. With approximately 8.6 million Americans taking prescription sleeping pills, the results of this study are of note for public safety.

The study examined the medical and driving records of people who were new to taking one of the top three prescribed sleeping pills: Ambien (zolpidem), Oleptro or Desyrel (trazodone) and Restoril (temazepam). The results showed a significant risk of being involved in a car accident for those taking these medications.  Moreover, study findings reveal that sleeping pills may have an equivalent effect of driving under the influence. Furthermore, use of sleeping pills increased the risk of a car accident after the effects of the drug should have worn off.

This latent effect confirms why in 2013 the FDA advised drug manufacturers to reduce the recommended dosage for prescription sleep aid medications due to the levels of the drug in patient bloodstreams following a full night’s sleep. Additionally, the FDA recommended doctors prescribe the lowest dose of the medication possible.

Examining more closely each of the top three prescribed sleeping pills, the study found that they all increased the risk of car accident, but not all at the same level. Each of top three prescribed drugs affect the body differently to aid in sleep.  Restoril poses a 27 percent higher risk of a crash and Desyrel/Oleptro doubles the risk.  Ambien resulted in the highest risk, making users more than two times as likely as non-users to be involved in a motor vehicle accident.  This rate is equivalent to someone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) between .06 and .11; the legal limit is a .08 percent BAC.

In America, 50-70 million people suffer from sleep disorders or sleep deprivation according to the Institute for Medicine.  Those who need prescription sleep aids in order to combat their sleep problems can be reassured by the fact that the effects of the sleeping pills wane over time. Those on the drug for a period of time either get used to the effects or their bodies have learned to compensate for them.  It is strongly recommended when starting any new prescription drug to avoid driving until you can see how your body reacts to the medication.

Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at Nerenberg Law Associates, P.C. Help Victims of Car Accidents

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident due to another driver’s negligence, call Nerenberg Law Associates, P.C. for a free consultation at 215-569-9100 or complete an online form. With offices located in center city Philadelphia, our personal injury lawyers serve clients in the Philadelphia area and Montgomery County, Delaware County, Bucks County and Chester County, as well as in New Jersey.