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Prescription Medications May Increase Risk of Drowsy Driving Accidents

Most motorists assume that if they have had their full eight hours of sleep and don’t take medications within a certain number of hours before driving, they are at a low risk of falling asleep at the wheel. However, new data suggests that those taking sleep medications or antidepressants may be at a higher risk of dozing off and being involved in a car accident.

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned of an increased risk of drowsy driving the day after using the popular sleep aid Lunesta. Lunesta contains eszoplicone which remains in the system several hours after taking the medication. The agency is especially concerned about the potential for next-day driving impairment with the use of this drug. It claims that the drug can possibly cause next-day impairment of driving as well as other important functions and, therefore, has recommended that the starting dose of the medication be reduced to 1 mg at bedtime.

The FDA is asking healthcare providers and doctors to follow the new recommendations for the administration of Lunesta for first time prescriptions.

The previously recommended dose was 3 mg.The FDA has evidence to show that this dosage level may cause a number of problems in a person’s driving skills, and can also affect coordination and memory. Those side effects may also last for more than 11 hours after the drug has been consumed. As a result, a person who is driving after having taken a tablet the previous night could continue to feel groggy, drowsy, and have poor coordination. It follows that the risk of being involved in an accident is much greater. The FDA found in a study that patients were very often unaware of the side effects of the drug.

The recommended new starting dose is 1 mg for both women and men. It can be increased to 2 or 3 mg over a period of time as the doctor deems necessary. However, patients must be aware that higher doses are likely to result in driving impairment. In fact, the agency recommends that patients on a 3 mg dose simply avoid driving or any other activity that requires concentration and alertness.