FDA slashes dose for common sleep meds

If you've ever taken a sleep med, you're an overdose victim.

The starting doses of the most common sleep meds are dangerously high -- so high they can impair everything from your thinking to your movements even long after you wake up.

It's one of the many reasons I don't recommend these meds to my patients. And now, even the FDA is recognizing the very real dangers, cutting the starting dose of eszopiclone -- aka Lunesta -- in half as studies show the side effects can linger well into the next day.

One study found that men and women given the drug had "severe" psychomotor and memory impairment 7.5 hours after taking it, and impaired driving skills and problems with both memory and coordination for up to 11 hours.

That means if you take the drug at midnight, you could be fighting off those effects almost until lunchtime.

And while the new guidelines apply to Lunesta and other eszopiclone-based drugs, the problem exists at least to some extent in just about every sleep med -- which is why last year, the FDA cut the recommended dose of zolpidem (the main ingredient in drugs such as Ambien) in half for women, and urged lower doses for men.

With many drugs, an overdose is a problem for the patient. But with sleep meds, these doses patients have been given -- doses you can bet mainstream docs will continue to recommend even with the new guidelines in place -- have the potential to shatter innocent lives.

After all, last year some 55 million prescriptions were written for sleep meds -- meaning that on any given morning, our roads are filled with people fighting off the aftereffects.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if these drugs turned out to be nearly as big a problem on our roadways as alcohol.

It's not just an issue for drivers. Poor judgment can affect you at home, work, school or anywhere else -- and that's hardly the only risk of these meds.

It's not even the biggest risk.

Over the short term, sleep drugs are known to cause weird dreams and bizarre and even dangerous sleepwalking behavior. Over the long term, common sleep meds can increase the risk of an early death by 500 percent or more.

And if you're a heart patient, there's another huge risk you need to worry about. Keep reading!