Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dangers of Driving and Sleeping Pills

Dangers of Driving and Sleeping Pills

This article discusses the dangerous dise effects from driving while taking sleeping pills.

This, year doctors will prescribe sleeping aids to 60 million Americans. Ambien and its generic form Zolpidem are among the most commonly prescribed.

Fast-acting and potent, it can stay in your system for up to 12 hours. Most side effects are minor. But a less common side effect, known as "complex sleep related behaviors," is cause for concern.

"That's the sleep-driving, the eating without awareness and the sleep walking," says Dr. Jessica Vensal Rundo, of the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center.

Sleep-driving made it into national news this summer when Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, sideswiped a truck and was found slumped over her car's steering wheel by a police officer.

"I remember getting on the highway and then I have no memory until I was stopped at a traffic light and there was a police officer at my car door," Kennedy told reporters, after a court appearance.

Toxicology reports show she had Ambien in her system.

Ambien was also in the system of her cousin, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, when he crashed his car into a concrete barrier back in 2006. In both those cases no one was hurt, but that is not always the case.

In May of this year, a Texas woman got probation for driving her car into two young sisters and their mother. One of the girls suffered severe brain damage. The driver had mixed Ambien and alcohol, but had no memory at all of getting into her car and driving.

That same month, a Southern Illinois man took four Ambien just 12 hours before he drove into a highway construction crew, killing one man and injuring three others.

The drug's directions are clear: go to bed for at least 7 to 8 hours and do not drive until fully awake. Sleep driving is one of the possible side effects.

Ambien is designed to act quickly and it does.  "It's actually just as bad as drinking and driving," says Dr. Deborah McAvoy, Director of the Driving Simulation Lab at Ohio University.

Dr. McAvoy and a team of researchers are using a driving simulator to study and help improve road safety.

"This information is valuable, simply because we are trying to reduce crashes and improve safety," Dr. McAvoy explained.

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