Proper Consultation and Dosage: Making Sleeping Pills Safe

By: Zuske Sagara

Burt Reynolds, the star of Smokey and the Bandit, and many other movies, once went into a coma while trying to kick his sleeping pill addiction. He went into a coma for about eight or nine hours. At one point, the doctors already told his wife Loni to say her goodbyes. Reynolds said that at one point during his coma, he had what was called an “out-of-body experience.” He said that, in the operating room, he even heard the doctor say, “We're losing him.” That experience helped Reynolds get rid of his drug addiction.

Robbie Williams was another celebrity who battled with addiction. According to reports, he has checked himself into rehab to escape a spiral of caffeine and sleeping pill overdose, in addition to an addiction to antidepressant medications. News reports also revealed that the pop star is addicted to an antidepressant called Seroxat on top of his compulsive consumption of caffeinated drinks. It is said that Williams can consume over 50 highly caffeinated drinks a day in the form of double espressos or cans of Red Bull tonic. In a newspaper interview, Williams said: “I can’t honestly say that I don’t take too many prescription drugs. How many is too many? I don’t know. If you drink as much coffee as I do, you can easily get into the too-many-sleeping-tablets thing.”

In Robbie William's case, his caffeine addiction led him to an addiction to sleeping pills. But for millions of other people, the addiction to sleeping pills began due to the classic difficulty of sleeplessness. Having difficulty sleeping is a common problem shared by many. This is why sleeping pills are one of the most common medications in the market. Chronic insomnia can lead to an overall inability to cope and function in the world. Sleeping pills offer the promise of an improved night's sleep and an overall improved capacity to cope with worries and anxieties that usually keep an insomniac wide awake till the wee hours of the morning. Sleeplessness leads to a kind of desperation that makes sleeping pills like Ambien, Sonata, Restoril and Dalmane seem positively irresistible. But are they all they're made out to be? Do they in fact improve sleep and overall daytime functioning? The case against sleeping pills is compelling.

The following information points out some important reasons why the use of sleeping pills should be regulated and allowed only with doctor's approval.

· Those who use sleeping pills have significantly higher mortality rates than those who do not.

· Sleeping pills do little or nothing to improve chronic insomnia and cause long-term chemical dependency.

· Sleeping pills reduce brain cell activity during the day, affecting short-term memory as well as causing a hangover effect.

· Sleeping pills accentuate the GABA neurotransmitter, which keeps the nerve cells in the lung tissue from firing. This is why an overdose of sleeping pills will cause asphyxiation and over 1000 overdose related deaths each year.

· GABA actuation is also responsible for impaired physical ability. Each year, thousands of traffic deaths, car accidents and falls (especially in the elderly) are attributed to sleeping pills.

· Sleep Apnea Patients should never take sleeping pills. Sleeping pills increase the pauses and length of pause in breathing. Someone with sleep apnea could suffer brain or ocular damage from the lack of oxygen or even death.

· Anyone over the age of 40 should be cautioned against the use of sleeping pills, and anyone over the age of 65 should never take sleeping pills. Studies show that almost all people over 40 have some symptoms of sleep apnea, and anyone over 65 would be clinically diagnosed with sleep apnea.

· Sleeping pills create a hypnotic dependency similar to alcohol and lower inhibitions and fear of pain or consequences. This is one reason why sleeping pills contribute to accidents and why chronic sleeping pill users are less likely to worry or take care of themselves.

· Sleeping pills are highly addictive. Sleeping pills are similar to barbiturates and are extremely difficult to stop using.

· Although sleeping pills do not improve daytime functioning, people still prefer taking them because of the barbiturate feel-good effect they produce. As with many addictive drugs, they may not be helpful, but we feel good when we take them.

Long-term studies on the effects of sleeping pills surely point out the need for regulation and education about its uses and effects. But with proper consultation and dosage, people who need medical aids for sleeping be assured of greater safety in the use of these medications.

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