It may seem like common sense that driving on sleeping pills is dangerous. Unfortunately, a person who fills a prescription for a "z-drug" reportedly has about twice the risk of becoming involved in a traffic accident within the first week of getting the pills from the pharmacy. The "z-drugs" include zopliclone, zolpidem, nitrazepam and flunitrazepam, all of which are sold under different brand names.
The effects of a sleeping pill can linger in daylight hours, especially in people who are taking other medications at the same time - and particularly among senior citizens. Because of the risks, experts are sounding the alarm about a dangerous increase in sleeping pill use among certain populations. A Chicago accident attorney will be in the best position to determine responsible parties in your case.
Who Is Most at Risk of An Accident Caused By Sleep Medication?
In the United States, around six million people are using sleeping pills, or about 3.5 percent of all U.S. adults. This is a significant increase from a decade ago when just two percent of the population used prescription sleep aids.
Aggressive marketing of sleep medications helped to increase their use. With around 10 to 15 percent of the population suffering from chronic insomnia, Ambien and related medications found a receptive audience for two decades of ads.
People who have other health problems including arthritis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and substance abuse are at greater risk of having sleep difficulties. Many people with these difficulties are prescribed sleep medications along with anti-anxiety drugs or drugs intended to manage pain.
The result of this is that people end up taking multiple medications that have a sedating effect. In one study, 55 percent of people taking sleeping pills were taking other sedating drugs like Xanax, Ativan or opioid pain killers. Ten percent of people were actually taking three or more different sedating medications.
People on multiple drugs compound the risk of daytime drowsiness as well as cognitive impairment, both of which can make driving dangerous. Programs like Roadwise RX can be used to input all drugs and medications you are taking to determine if you are one of the drivers at high risk.
Roadwise RX will work for everyone, but was specifically created to help seniors. Senior citizens already experience age-related declines in cognitive function and vision that increase their risk of collisions. In fact, 500 seniors each day are injured in auto accidents. With five percent of people aged 80 or older now taking prescription sleep aids, the dangers created by older drivers are compounded. Harvard researcher Suzanne Bertisch has said that "pretty much nobody over 80" should be taking these prescription sleep aids because of the dangers of dizziness, daytime drowsiness and added cognitive impairments. Since these drugs are so dangerous for seniors, family members should step in and prevent driving by older people dependent upon sleep aids.
A Chicago accident attorney can help after an accident. Call Coplan & Crane at 800-394-6002 to schedule your free consultation.