If you take certain prescription sleeping pills, beware of unusual behavior while under their effect, such as sleepwalking, sleep driving, or engaging in other activities while not fully awake.
For years people have reported such incidents, usually after taking zolpidem (brand name Ambien and others), so the FDA has required a warning in the package inserts. But now the FDA is requiring a boxed warning (its most serious type of warning) about this risk on zolpidem and two other sleep aids, eszopiclone (Lunesta) and zaleplon (Sonata).
The FDA had received dozens of reports of serious injuries in users of the drugs, such as falls, burns, near-drowning, exposure to extreme cold temperatures leading to loss of limbs, and gunshot wounds. Twenty reported deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, drowning, falls, hypothermia, motor vehicle crashes, and apparent suicide. The incidents can occur after the first use of these drugs or after longer use. When dispensing these drugs, pharmacies are required to provide a patient medication guide that explains their proper use and risks.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.