Photographed by Jessica Nash.
As Americans, our sleeping habits might not be great, but a new government report suggests our sleeping pill habits are even worse — and they're becoming seriously dangerous.
The report, published last week by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, shows that the total number of emergency department visits involving overmedication of zolpidem (the active ingredient in Ambien) nearly doubled between 2005 and 2010, increasing from 21,824 visits in a two-year period to 42,274. Visits were tracked using the Drug Abuse Warning Network and included overmedication with zolpidem alone or in combination with other drugs — mostly pain relievers and anti-anxiety medications, but also alcohol (a major no-no).
Two thirds of these emergency department visits in 2010 were from women, with 25,749 between 2009 and 2010. But, women only showed a 69% increase in visits overall, while men saw a 150% increase. So, even though women account for the majority of visits, men's visits are increasing at a much faster rate. Plus, it's important to note that more women use sleeping pills than men, so it makes sense that they would account for more visits.
Overmedication ER visits were most common for people aged 45 to 51, but one in five visits were from someone aged 35 to 44 and an additional one in five were 34 years old or younger. The bottom line? Overmedication and drug combinations are huge issues, ones that can be partly addressed by a shockingly simply step: telling your pharmacist what else you're taking.