Drowsy driving is a huge problem in this country. According to a government study, 1 in 24 U.S. adults say they recently fell asleep while driving. Some health experts contend that the number is even higher because people often don’t realize when they nod off at the wheel for just a second or two.
While there are many causes of drowsy driving, one cause that has been overlooked until recently is the use of sleep medication at bedtime. Kerry Kennedy, like many other drivers, recently was involved in an automobile accident that she attributes to sleep medication. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provided support for her account when it called for lowered bedtime doses of certain popular sleep medications. According to the FDA, the new dosage recommendations will help prevent drowsiness for drivers driving to work in the morning.
In 2011, doctors wrote approximately 40 million prescriptions for Zolpidem, the active ingredient in sleeping pills. It is sold under the generic names like Ambien, Edular, and Zolpmist. The FDA has received 700 reports of “impaired ability” and traffic accidents that they believe to be the effects of Zolpidem.
The FDA’s warning urges patients and doctors to lower bedtime doses of sleeping pills after clinical tests were combined with driving simulator tests. The FDA’s warning specifically addresses women because they appear to be the most at risk. The FDA recommends that dosages be cut from 10 mg to 5 mg for immediate release pills and from 12.5 mg to 6.25 mg in extended release pills. The FDA noted that doctors should prescribe, and patients should take, the lowest possible doses capable of treating the patient’s insomnia.
If you take sleeping medication to help you obtain some extra slumber, take note of the FDA’s new recommendations to ensure your safety on the road.