FDA warns of sleeping pill injuries, deaths

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Federal health officials are warning the millions of Americans who use prescription sleeping pills about dozens of reports of sleepwalking, driving and cooking that have led to serious injuries or even death.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says 20 of 66 cases in the United States have been deadly, with sleepwalkers crashing, drowning or dying of hypothermia or carbon monoxide poisoning. Injuries included falls, serious burns and even accidental gunshot injuries.

Dr. Kelly Waters of Spectrum Health said there can also be other scary side effects, like memory loss.

“You wake up, the medication is doing what it needs to do, and you get to work and you don’t remember how you got there. You know you drove, you got the keys in your pocket, but you don’t remember the drive. That’s probably the most dangerous,” she said.

She said you need to give medications like Lunesta, Sonata or Ambien time to get out of your system before going about your day. She recommended starting sleeping pills on a night when you don’t have to work or drive the following day. She added it’s important to avoid drinking.

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Waters said she rarely prescribes sleeping pills because they don’t threat the cause of the problem.

“Medications are there to help. They don’t technically treat what’s underlying (or) the issue. They help with the symptoms,” she said.

She said the key is to find out what started the problem and why it’s continuing, explaining the most common issues are apnea or insomnia.

“If we can get your body working for you without a medication, that has the most long-term benefits,” Water said.

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