Zolpidem is a nonbenzodiazepine medication that is used as a sleep aid. Despite being relatively new and somewhat controversial, Zolpidem is one of the most commonly used medications for insomnia. The effect of the medication is short lived, and allows people to fall asleep quickly without the residual hangover effect felt by many other sleep aids.
But side effects of Zolpidem include dizziness, impaired coordination, and poor posture control. Other reported side effects are sleep walking, sleep eating, and even driving while asleep. Obviously, these behaviors can pose serious danger to the users of Zolpidem and in the case of sleep driving, other people as well. For many who take Zolpidem, accidents and injuries are not uncommon.
Because Zolpidem is the most widely prescribed sleep aid in Taiwan, Shiu-Dong Chung of the Division of Urology and Department of Surgery at the Far Eastern Memorial Hospital in Taiwan wanted to get a better idea of how Zolpidem increases risk of injury and accidents. Chung assessed data from over 77,000 individuals who took Zolpidem over a three-year period and compared them to matched control participants. The participants’ information was assessed over a 90-day period to determine frequency of dangerous behavior, injury, and accidents.
Chung discovered that the individuals on Zolpidem were almost twice as likely to suffer an injury compared to the controls. The most common injuries, especially for elderly individuals, were hip and leg fractures from falling. Traffic accidents were also more common among the medicated participants than the nonmedicated participants.
The results of this study clearly show that people who take Zolpidem for insomnia may be at increased risk for serious injury or accidents. This risk may be further exacerbated by age, overall health, comorbid conditions, and the combined effect of other medications. Chung concluded by saying, “A comprehensive and careful evaluation should be conducted before Zolpidem is prescribed to minimize the risk for potential injury.”
Chung, S.-D., Lin, C.-C., Wang, L.-H., Lin, H.-C., Kang, J.-H. (2013). Zolpidem use and the risk of injury: A population-based follow-up study. PLoS ONE 8(6): e67459. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0067459
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