DRUG THERAPY FOR INSOMNIA

The more we learn about sleep, the more we know about how to manage sleep disorders. In recent years, as data from sleep labs and other sources have become increasingly available, many physicians have begun to realize that in most cases pharmaceutical management of insomnia is at best a temporary solution. As a result of our growing knowledge, there has been a decided change in the way doctors deal with the problem. In 1964, the first year such data were collected, over 32 million prescriptions for sleeping pills were written. By 1971 the number peaked at over 42 million; by 1982, however, that figure had been cut exactly in half.
“Treating” insomnia by administering medicine may produce sleep for a few days or a few weeks, and the careful use of drugs can help especially if you are severely troubled by your insomnia or if inadequate sleep poses a threat to your health, safety, or well-being. However, unless your doctor uncovers the physical or mental disorder that is causing your sleeplessness, the problem will simply persist. In a sense sleeping pills are like throat lozenges, which soothe the irritation but do not cure the cough. No pill yet conceived cures insomnia. A more effective approach to chronic insomnia is some combination of psychological and behavioral therapies, the goal of which is to encourage poor sleepers to quit dwelling on the symptoms and bring about changes in sleep habits.
There is one exception to the rule: in rare cases of true organic insomnia—sleeplessness without any identifiable medical or psychological cause—long-term therapy with sleep-inducing drugs may be required. Even then, treatment is most effective if the patient takes frequent drug “holidays,” or respites, from the use of medication.
From the pharmaceutical fact file:
* Sleeping medications are the most widely used class of drugs in this country.
* Doctors write between 20 and 30 million prescriptions a year for sleeping pills and tranquilizers.
* Americans spend over $200 million a year for sleeping medications.
* Over 4 percent of the population—nearly 11 million people—use prescription sleep medicines.
* An even larger group uses over-the-counter preparations.
* About half of all patients in hospitals receive sleep medications at some point during their stay.
* Approximately 600 tons of sleeping medications are consumed each year.
Here’s the kicker:
* In many cases these pills don’t work, make the problem worse, or result in serious side effects. About a third of drug-related deaths reported to the Department of Health and Human Services involve sleeping pills.
*265\226\8*

DRUG THERAPY FOR INSOMNIAThe more we learn about sleep, the more we know about how to manage sleep disorders. In recent years, as data from sleep labs and other sources have become increasingly available, many physicians have begun to realize that in most cases pharmaceutical management of insomnia is at best a temporary solution. As a result of our growing knowledge, there has been a decided change in the way doctors deal with the problem. In 1964, the first year such data were collected, over 32 million prescriptions for sleeping pills were written. By 1971 the number peaked at over 42 million; by 1982, however, that figure had been cut exactly in half.”Treating” insomnia by administering medicine may produce sleep for a few days or a few weeks, and the careful use of drugs can help especially if you are severely troubled by your insomnia or if inadequate sleep poses a threat to your health, safety, or well-being. However, unless your doctor uncovers the physical or mental disorder that is causing your sleeplessness, the problem will simply persist. In a sense sleeping pills are like throat lozenges, which soothe the irritation but do not cure the cough. No pill yet conceived cures insomnia. A more effective approach to chronic insomnia is some combination of psychological and behavioral therapies, the goal of which is to encourage poor sleepers to quit dwelling on the symptoms and bring about changes in sleep habits.There is one exception to the rule: in rare cases of true organic insomnia—sleeplessness without any identifiable medical or psychological cause—long-term therapy with sleep-inducing drugs may be required. Even then, treatment is most effective if the patient takes frequent drug “holidays,” or respites, from the use of medication.From the pharmaceutical fact file:* Sleeping medications are the most widely used class of drugs in this country.* Doctors write between 20 and 30 million prescriptions a year for sleeping pills and tranquilizers.* Americans spend over $200 million a year for sleeping medications.* Over 4 percent of the population—nearly 11 million people—use prescription sleep medicines.* An even larger group uses over-the-counter preparations.* About half of all patients in hospitals receive sleep medications at some point during their stay.* Approximately 600 tons of sleeping medications are consumed each year.Here’s the kicker:* In many cases these pills don’t work, make the problem worse, or result in serious side effects. About a third of drug-related deaths reported to the Department of Health and Human Services involve sleeping pills.*265\226\8*

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