Study: Sleep medication users have increased accident risk

Based on the findings of a recent study, new users of three common prescription sleep aids may have an increased risk for auto accidents.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that sleep disorders affect approximately 50 to 70 million adults across the U.S. In some cases, physicians in Delaware and elsewhere may prescribe sleep aids to those suffering from insomnia, sleep apnea and other sleep-related conditions. Although these types of medications may help people get the rest they need, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health found new users of sleep aids may have an increased crash risk. Due to such collisions, they, their passengers or the occupants of other vehicles may suffer serious injuries, including broken bones, as well as death.

Most sleep aids are sedating, hypnotic medications. They promote drowsiness and sleep by suppressing some of the activities performed by the central nervous system. Research has shown that these types of medications may remain in the bloodstream for extended periods of time. This prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to recommend lowering the suggested dosage for sleeping pills and to advise people not to drive the morning after using them.

Examining the effects of sleep aid use on drivers' crash risk

Researchers with the University of Washington performed a new user cohort study to better understand how using prescription sleep aids affects drivers. To achieve this, they analyzed the auto collision and prescription records for 409,171 Washington state drivers. Those included in the study were enrolled in one of the state's insurance plans for at least one continuous year between 2003 and 2008. In order to estimate the collision risk associated with the use of temazepam, trazodone and zolpidem, researchers employed a proportional hazard regression.

Sleeping pill users have higher risk for collisions

Using all three commonly prescribed sleep aids increase drivers' risk of being involved in motor vehicle accidents, based on the study's findings. According to NBC News, the study showed the risk of getting into a collision may be up to three times greater for people who use sleeping pills than it is for those who do not. This is because these types of medications may cause drowsiness, slowed reflexes and other impairments. The researchers pointed out that those who use sleeping pills may have the same crash risk as if they had a blood alcohol content level of 0.06 and 0.11 percent.

Generally, new users seem to be most affected by these types of medications. Over time, the body may acclimate or compensate for the effects of sleep aids, which may lessen their crash risk. Overall, however, the study's findings reinforce the FDA's 2013 recommendation.

Pursuing financial justice

When people are involved in motor vehicle accidents in Delaware, they may suffer serious injuries that require extensive medical treatment. Such care often carries unexpected and undue costs, and they may lose income while they are recovering. It may benefit those who have experienced this type of situation to consult with an attorney to determine if the at-fault driver may be liable for these, and other damages. A legal representative may explain their rights and their options for seeking financial compensation.