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Are You Risking a Car Crash on Ambien?

Drivers over 80 are twice as likely to have a car crash on Ambien than those who don't use a sleep aid.

One popular prescription sleeping pill is zolpidem, sold under the brand name Ambien. Americans have been taking it to get to sleep for more than a decade. It is currently available as a generic drug as well as in several brand-name formulations. But some folks are at higher risk of a car crash on Ambien.

Older People Crash More Often When They Have Taken Zolpidem the Night Before:

Although most people think that the effects of this sleep aid have worn off by the time they get going the next day, a new study of older drivers suggests otherwise. Researchers tracked the records of 2,000 older people in Alabama.

Who Is Most Vulnerable to a Car Crash on Ambien?

Women over 70 were about 60 percent more likely to have been involved in a car crash if they were taking zolpidem. Drivers over 80 were more than twice as likely to be in a car crash on Ambien or its generic equivalent.

Difficulties getting to sleep seem to be fairly common among older adults, so they are frequently given a prescription for a sleep aid. Others use over-the-counter medicines such as Advil PM or Tylenol PM that contain diphenhydramine. This anticholinergic medication has drawbacks of its own for older individuals, including the possibility of confusion or forgetfulness.

The take-home message seems to be that older people, especially women and those over 80, should not drive if they have taken a sleep medication like zolpidem the night before.

Sleep Medicine, online, Dec. 29, 2015



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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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