January 16, 2009

Sleep Aid Use Skyrockets in Young Adults

Need the help of a pill to catch some zzz's? According to a new study you're not alone; the use of prescription sleep aids nearly tripled among young adults between 1998 and 2006.

"Insomnia, a condition traditionally associated with older adults, appears to be causing larger numbers of young adults to turn to prescription sleep aids, and to depend on them for longer periods of time," said William Marder, senior vice president and general manager for the healthcare business of Thomson Reuters, who conducted the study.

An investigation of medical and drug claims data found a 50 percent increase in use of the drugs among all adults under 45, who also appear to be using the drugs for a longer period of time to help them fall asleep.

The average length of time sleep aids were used by adults under 45 jumped by more than 40 percent -- rising to 93 days in 2006 from 64 days in 1998.

However, the most startling finding was the increase in use of sleep aids among college-age adults 18 to 24.

Use in this age group rose to 1,524 users per 100,000 in 2006, up from 599 users per 100,000 in 1998.

"I find it very worrisome that young people who should have a very strong and healthy sleep system are now finding they are turning to medication to help them get to sleep," said Donna Arand, a sleep specialist at Kettering Hospital Sleep Disorder Center in Dayton, Ohio.

Two-thirds of the study population took non-benzodiazepine hypnotics like Sanofi-Aventis' Ambien CR and Sepracor Inc's Lunesta.

In some rare cases sleep aids can cause sleep- walking, and even have deadly consequences.

Authorities say a 51-year-old Wisconsin man froze to death while sleepwalking barefoot in his underwear in below-zero cold.

The Sawyer County Sheriff's Office in Hayward, Wisconsin, said Timothy Brueggeman had Ambien at his house, and family members said he had a history of sleepwalking.

Chief Deputy Tim Ziegel said there was no hard evidence that Brueggeman had taken the drug before his death but toxicology tests had been ordered.

"We do not know all the facts about what transpired," said Sanofi spokeswoman Susan Brook, noting that the circumstances of the man's death are still being investigated.

Brook noted sleepwalking is a rare side effect of the drug and she cautioned that people with a history of sleepwalking should not take Ambien or Ambien CR, nor should they be taken with alcohol.


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