When people take prescription medications at night to help them sleep, they don’t expect to feel the effects of the drug the next day. However, research and anecdotal data have increasingly shown that some sleep medications can make driving unsafe the following morning.
In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned manufacturers of medications containing zolpidem (particularly those considered “extended-release”) to lower the recommended dose for women by as much as half but also to lower it for men. The agency says it has received about 700 reports of incidents where zolpidem impaired a person’s ability to drive and in some cases resulted in accidents.
Zolpidem is in a class of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics. It’s the most common active ingredient in prescription drugs for insomnia. One of the best-known brands with zolpidem is Ambien. However, other brand-name and generic insomnia medications contain it as well.
The FDA is also looking at how long other sleep medications (both those sold over-the-counter and those requiring a prescription) can impact a person’s ability to drive as well as to perform other activities that require them to be alert. The agency advises doctors to caution patients for whom they prescribe medication for insomnia that it may not be safe for them to drive in the mornings after they’ve taken it.
One doctor with the FDA says, “We have had longstanding concern about sleep medications and driving. However, only recently have data from clinical trials and specialized driving simulation studies become available that enabled FDA to better establish the risk of driving impairment and to make new recommendations about dosing.”
It’s always important after being prescribed a new medication that can cause drowsiness or otherwise impair alertness or thinking to be extremely cautious about driving until you know how long you feel the effects. However, people often don’t realize that their driving is impaired until they have to make a split-second decision that they’re not prepared for.
If you’ve suffered injuries in a crash caused by another driver, they may have been impaired even if they weren’t under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. An experienced attorney can help work to ensure that a thorough investigation is done. This can help you seek the compensation you need for expenses and damages.