A New Taipei City pharmacist warned people who use sleeping pills not to increase their dosage without consulting a doctor after a 52-year-old woman developed symptoms of substance abuse.
The woman, surnamed Chen (陳), began taking medication for insomnia and other sleeping problems about a year ago, Taipei Tzu Chi Hospital pharmacist Wang Ping-yu (王平宇) said.
However, instead of taking the pills regularly, she took them only when she felt she needed them, he said.
When her stress levels increased, she adjusted her dosage on her own, he said, adding that Chen later reported being unable to fall asleep even after taking three pills.
Studies have shown that about 35 percent of adults experience sleeping problems, with symptoms being more prevalent among women than men, Wang said.
Statistics provided by the Taiwan Society of Sleep Medicine showed that 20.2 percent of people in Taiwan experience insomnia, he added.
However, people who increase the dosage of sedative hypnotics on their own due to perceived ineffectiveness are susceptible to developing a drug dependence or even addiction, he said, adding that it could lead to an increased tolerance, memory decline, rebound insomnia or other withdrawal symptoms.
Some people want to stop taking such drugs because they are worried that long-term use could affect their liver or kidney function, but they should first discuss it with their doctor, who would help them discontinue the medication gradually, or consult a pharmacist about the risks of doing so, Wang said.
They should not stop taking medication on their own or take dietary supplements that claim to help with sleep, as they could experience withdrawal symptoms or drug interactions could further damage their body, he said.
People should never take their family or friends’ prescriptions, Wang added.
They should avoid seeing multiple doctors about the same problem, and ensure that they understand how to use their prescriptions, what precautions to take, and are aware of the drug’s expiration date and other information included on the prescription labels, he said, adding that if they have any questions, they should speak to a doctor or pharmacist.
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