Sleeping pills and sleep-inducing medications are the newest form of dangerous drugs on the over-the-counter market for drivers and others on the road. While almost all drivers who drink or take illegal or restricted drugs know the risks involved if they get behind the wheel, people who have been prescribed medication by their doctors may not realize that these pills are just as dangerous — and in some cases, more dangerous — than the restricted, PSA-driven substances.
A recent study from the University of Washington School of Pharmacy has found that taking sleeping pills can double or even triple a driver’s risk of being involved in a car accident. These medications can cause a driver to crash or collide with others on the road just as much as drinking or doing drugs and driving will.
The University’s study, published by the American Journal of Public Health, provides backup for several recent warnings issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 2013, the FDA began requiring pharmaceutical companies to decrease the dosage levels for Ambien (a popular sleeping medication) and others like it for women.
According to the FDA’s research, women process sleep medications more slowly than men do, so their dosage levels should be cut in half. The FDA also recommended that dosages be lowered for men, but did not require pharmaceutical companies to cut their prescription dosages.
University of Washington’s Data
The study by the University of Washington examined a sample of more than 400,000 medical records from people in Washington State who were enrolled in a particular healthcare plan. These records were restricted to only adult drivers. The data focused on three different sleeping pills, each of which works in a different way: Restoril (Temazepam), Ambien (Zolpidem) and Desyrel (Trazodone).
The researchers found that, over five years worth of medical records, drivers who were using sleeping pills were involved in a widespread number of car accidents. Drivers who had taken Restoril had a 27 percent greater chance for car accidents.
Drivers with prescriptions for Desryel had a 91 percent greater risk of causing car accidents and crashes. However, those who were taking Ambien were at the highest risk of accident and collision. These users were more than twice as likely to be involved in a car crash as those who do not take sleeping pills.
According to the report, the element of risk involved in taking sleeping pills and driving is roughly equivalent to having a blood alcohol concentration between 0.06 percent and 0.11 percent — a range that includes the legal driving limit of 0.08 percent in all 50 states.
Alternatives to Sleeping Pills
The researchers involved in the study hope that their findings not only highlight the dangers of sleeping pills and drowsy driving, but help promote alternatives to sleeping pills for those who suffer from insomnia. Options such as cognitive behavior therapy and working to uncover the problems with their sleeping issues could be safer than prescribing medication with such high risks.
At Levine Law, our Denver car accident lawyers represent anyone who has been injured as a result of another driver’s drowsiness or lack of caution. To discuss your case, contact a Levine Law attorney today.