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Thursday, 22 February, 2001, 01:14 GMT
Hidden danger of sleeping pills
Sleeping soundly
About 16 million sleeping tablet prescriptions are issued annually
Millions of people are hooked on sleeping tablets, which are wrecking their health.

Experts warn that the drugs can be extremely dangerous to people with certain medical conditions, such as psychosis, breathing problems and heart disease.

But even for those with no medical health problems, sleeping tablets can be dangerous and highly addictive.

You can become dependent on the tablets within just two weeks

MIND spokeswoman
Users can get hooked within just two weeks of starting to take the pills, which many people are taking unnecessarily.

MIND has now launched a booklet to warn of the dangers of sleeping pills.

Called "Sleeping Pills - Curse or Cure for insomnia?" it considers the drawbacks of the pills; the alternatives and the dangers of weaning yourself off them.

Withdrawal severe

MIND warn that withdrawal symptoms can be severe, ranging from trembling and the shakes to hallucinations, paranoia and epileptic fits.

Anyone who has taken sleeping tablets for more than a few nights should not try withdrawal without the help of their GP.

How to improve your sleep without pills
Avoid tea, coffee and alcohol just before you go to bed
Exercise during the day
Do not eat a large meal too late in the day
Avoid reading or watching television in bed as it encourages you to stay awake
MIND said that sleeping tablets would not tackle the underlying reasons for depression, and encourage people to look at changing their lifestyle to see if that can combat the problems first.

They advise people to avoid drinking tea, coffee and alcohol before they go to bed; not eating too late in the day; taking sufficient exercise and not reading or watching TV in bed, as this can encourage you to stay awake.

Mental health

A spokeswoman for MIND said that they are extremely worried about the effect that sleeping tablets are having on mental health.

She said that there are about 16 million prescriptions of the most common sort of drugs, despite guidelines issued to GPs in 1988 warning that the drugs are highly addictive.

"You can become dependent on the tablets within just two weeks. Your body very quickly becomes tolerant to them and they don't treat the underlying causes of your sleep problem.

"The number of people taking them are too high, despite the guidelines to GPs," she said.

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19 Sep 00 | Health
Lack of sleep 'risks lives'
01 Sep 99 | Sci/Tech
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