Spare The Sleeping Pills and Try Other Options First
By Steve Mitchell, ConsumerReports.org // August 10, 2012
Healthcare Consumer News
EDITOR’S NOTE—This Consumer Reports analysis of the effectiveness and the side-effects of prescription sleeping pills underscores the fact that despite their marginal benefit and potential risks, these pills are heavily prescribed and used. The serious side effects should not be taken lightly, and it is recommended that if you have had difficulty sleeping for a night or two, first try lifestyle or sleeping behavior changes, and if that doesn’t work, then the best first option for many people is the short-term use of an over-the-counter sleeping aid.
CONSUMERREPORTS.ORG—When insomnia strikes, many people turn to prescription sleeping pills, such as Ambien or Lunesta. These medications can help you drift off to sleep, but they can also cause serious side effects and might only be slightly more effective than a placebo, according to a new analysis by Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs. We recommend trying other safer options first, including lifestyle changes and improving your sleep habits.
Our analysis comes on the heels of a study released Monday in the British Medical Journal Open that looked at the medical records of more than 10,000 people in the U.S. who took sleeping pills. These men and women, who had an average age of 54, had an increased risk of death and cancer, whether they were using older sleeping pills or newer sleeping pills, including zolpidem (Ambien and generic), compared with people who did not take these medications. The findings are only an association and do not necessarily mean the drugs are responsible, but they underscore the fact that sleeping pills can have serious side effects and should not be taken lightly.
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