Sleeping Pills Do More Harm Than Good1 April, 2012 at 09:27 | Posted in Body & Mind, Science | Leave a comment
Tags: Body & Mind, health, Science
As the industrialized world increasingly relies on sleeping pills, new information suggests they may not be as safe as previously thought.
Drugs like Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata; older drugs like Valium and barbiturates; and even sedative antihistamines all correlate with a threefold increase in the hazard of death, say researchers in the Feb. 27, 2012, issue of the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Some of the mortality stemmed from a “significant elevation of incident cancer,” say the researchers. Research subjects did not have pre-existing disease.
Sleeping pills have never been Big Pharma’s finest hour. In the 1960s, barbiturates were immortalized by Marilyn Monroe’s death and by the 1967 movie Valley of the Dolls.
In 1993, the sleeping pill Halcion was banned in the United Kingdom and other countries for causing amnesia, paranoia, depression, hallucinations, and violence in users. Travelers would find themselves on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and not remember boarding a plane.
In 2001, a similar pill, Dalmane, was said to “increase the risk of an injurious accident more than five times normal,” at an FDA/National Transportation Safety Board hearing.
There were more transportation risks. Who in the United States can forget former Rhode Island representative Patrick Kennedy driving to Capitol Hill in 2006 to “vote” at 2:45 a.m. while on Ambien and other drugs and crashing his car?
Law-enforcement officials reported that traffic accidents increased when Ambien became popular. Some drivers were not even aware that police officers were arresting them.
The FDA soon issued warnings about such apparent sleeping-pill blackouts for Ambien and 12 other sleeping pills—the potential for “complex sleep-related behaviors” that may include “sleep-driving, making phone calls, and preparing and eating food (while asleep).” Sanofi-Aventis, Ambien’s manufacturer, was forced to publish ads telling people that if they were going to take Ambien, to get in bed and stay there.