Sep 21, 2017

Interview Transcript

Announcer: Need reliable health and wellness information? Don't listen to the guy in the cube next to you. Get it from a trusted source, straight from the doctor's mouth. Here's this week's listener question on The Scope.

Interviewer: So Tracy has sent us an email. She says she's been having trouble sleeping lately and she says that one of her girlfriends gave her a sleeping pill for the same problem. She says that so far, so good. But Dr. Jones, what's your take on this? She's wondering if this is actually okay by a doctor's point of view.

Dr. Jones: Okay, well, let's talk about sharing your prescription drugs. First of all, it's not a good idea to share your prescription drugs. Although it's not uncommon for women who often share their medical problems, meaning they'll discuss it with a girlfriend, and they may have medications that they feel like they've got extras. And that could include Valium-like drugs for anxiety, or it could include sleeping pills.

Usually birth control pills, I don't recommend that because then you're missing some so someone's missing out. And the person who's getting them isn't getting enough to make a difference, so that's not such a great idea. So in general, taking other people's medications is a bad idea. Also, dispensing drugs without a license is a felony.

Interviewer: Oh, that's illegal?

Dr. Jones: That's illegal. So your girlfriend, she's got a little problem with the law. It's a good thing you didn't give us your girlfriend's name, Tracy.

So what about sleepers? It turns out that 30% to 50 % of Americans have difficulty sleeping on occasion, and it's not uncommon to have an acute episode, maybe it's a divorce or it's an upcoming test or it's financial trouble. They keep you from sleeping. You say, "God, if I could just get a good night, one good night's sleep, I could solve this problem."

There are medications that are available over the counter that work a little bit for sleep. They are sedating antihistamines and you can get them. Benadryl and doxylamine under Benadryl you can get over the counter, and it's used as a sleeper. Unisom is a brand name you can get over the counter. These antihistamines, antihistamines are drugs people use for allergies and things like that, are mildly sedating so they can work for some people. I'm not the only one who's taken a hit of NyQuil when I didn't really have the worst cold in the world because I just couldn't get to sleep. And NyQuil has Unisom in it or doxylamine.

Now, taking somebody else's drug for that one time makes you kind of think that another time would be okay and then another time. And first of all, you don't know how that medication is going to affect you. That medication was given to that specific person for a specific reason in a dose that at least someone thought was appropriate for them. Just because you're like your girlfriend and the same age, maybe you even wear the same clothes, that doesn't mean your biology is the same and it may not be the right drug for you.

So taking another person's sleeper can have some unexpected consequences. Most sleeping pills actually don't give you that much extra sleep. They do make you close your eyes, but your sleep quality is not that great, and you can have difficulty with sleepwalking, sleep talking, or sleepy driving. You may have difficulty waking up in the morning. So if you're worried about something and you need a really careful brain, sometimes taking a sleeping pill may not be so great for you.

So in sum, most sleeping pills are not all that great, although the placebo effect is big. So you took the pill, you fell asleep, now you know it's good for you and you want some more. Mostly in general studies, sleeping pills aren't that great for sleep. Taking somebody's medications that aren't yours may actually harm you. My guess is you've already taken it and you feel okay and now you think, "Wow, maybe I'll ask her if she's got some more." That kind of diversion of drugs is illegal, so I don't think that's such a good idea.

I think that if you're having difficulty sleeping you should see your health professional, or there are actually some free online techniques for helping you sleep, cognitive behavioral in therapy for insomnia, CBTI. There's some online tricks for helping yourself sleep better. Don't share your birth control pills. Definitely don't share your narcotics. Don't swap out your antibiotics because the person who was given them should have taken all of them, the full dose.

I think taking somebody else's sleepers, it didn't kill you, that's good news. You think it's great, you want some more. I think that usually there's some other medications that might be better for you, and I don't recommend taking somebody else's pills. You can share your peanut M&Ms but don't share your drugs.

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