The FDA is analyzing link between sleep aids and drowsy driving

Studies have shown consistently in recent years that Americans are not excellent sleepers. In response to our ever-busy cultural approach to work, play and relationships, to the multitude of electronic devices that rule our lives and the pressure many of us feel to be productive late into the evening, Americans do not tend to get proper amounts of sleep or quality of sleep. As a result, a startling number of Americans choose to use sleep aids either occasionally or with regularity.

Unfortunately, recent studies indicate that sleep aids may indeed be dangerous drugs in certain contexts. Sleep aids are most dangerous when taken in incorrect dosages. Overdosing on sleep medication can be fatal. But these drugs are also dangerous in one other critical context. If not metabolized fully during the night, sleep aids can contribute to drowsy driving behavior the morning after the drugs are taken.

Given that drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking a substantial interest in recent research on this phenomenon as it is published. In recent months, it has asked certain sleep aid manufacturers to change their warnings and to reduce recommended dosages of these drugs for certain populations in response. The FDA even went so far as to reject a new sleep aid drug application in July because evidence indicates that some drivers have a difficult time operating their vehicles safely the morning after taking the drug.

Ordinarily we discuss motor vehicle safety as separate from drug safety. But when it comes to sleeping aids and a risk of drowsy driving, the issues are one and the same.

Source: New York Times, “To Judge Sleep Aids, U.S. looks at Drowsy Driving in the Morning,” Katie Thomas, Aug. 13, 2013

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