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Sleep medication can cause accidents amongst older drivers

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol leads to numerous fatalities on the Pennsylvania roadways every year. Even driving under the influence of prescription sleep medication has proven to be dangerous in some individuals. A recent study led by John Booth III of the University of Alabama at Birmingham shows that older adults using sleep medications are more likely to be involved in car accidents than other drivers. The study used information collected from questionnaires of drivers over the age of 70.

Approximately four percent of the study participants were prescribed to Zolpidem, the generic name for Ambien. The study showed that these people were more likely to have chronic health issues and drive less yearly than others in the group. When other factors were accounted for, collision rates were similar for both zolpidem users and nonusers. However, amongst women, zolpidem users were 61 percent more likely to be involved in a car accident. This is likely because women tend to have higher concentrations of the drug in their plasma, even if they take the same dosage as men. Drivers over 80 using zolpidem were more than twice as likely to have been in an accident in the past five years.

A spokesperson for Sanofi, the manufacturer of Ambien, says that the label warns not to take the drug unless you are able to stay in bed for seven to eight hours before becoming active again.

In order for the sedative to have a lower concentration in the blood, people taking zolpidem should wait for an extended period of time before getting behind the wheel. Older adults in particular need to be conscious of the possible side effects in order to help proven these tragic accidents and serious injuries.

Source: Fox New Health, "For older drivers, sleep meds are linked with car accidents," Jan. 18, 2016

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