I applaud the move by the FDA in recommending that drugmakers cut back on their dosages for the sleep medication Ambien.
Researchers have found that for many folks who take Ambien late in the evening, when they wake up in the morning, they still have significant levels of the medication in their circulation. This has led many patients to feel tired, groggy and unable to function well behind the wheel of a car.
There have been many reported accidents that have been linked to patients still feeling the effects of the Ambien medication. This is why government regulators are recommending some of the dosages be cut back in half. Instead of 10 milligram pills, create ones only 5 milligrams. And instead of pills at 12.5 milligrams, go down to a dosage of 6.5 milligrams.
I think this is especially important for women. When you look at the way the drug is metabolized, clearly women metabolize it a little bit slower than men. This creates a more significant effect on the female user.
What concerns me the most, however; is the reliance that many people continue to have on the use of Ambien. I know many people that cannot go to sleep without taking a daily Ambien. Clearly, this was not the intended use for this medication.
Drug dependency on Ambien is a big problem, and I think physicians have to step up – rather than just routinely prescribe the drug. They might want to have a conversation with their patients and say, ‘Can we find alternative ways to help you get a good night’s sleep?’
I think this change is going to help, but I still think we have a long way to go in curbing the “Ambien Appetite.”
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.