Friday, March 30, 2012

Sleeping Pills Probably Cause Cancer, Shorten Lives

I felt this story was important enough to break my self-imposed blogging ban, just because it scared the bejeesus out of me and caused me to significantly change my medication regimen.

And because something you take daily might be killing you--or doing so in the not-so-distant future.

When I saw the new ambulance chaser commercial this evening for a whole slew of sleeping pills, claiming they cause cancer and shorten lives, I scoffed and thought, "Get real."

I had learned to largely trust this class of drugs based on personal experience and anecdotal evidence and because I hadn't seen any red flags in the side effects listed in the literature or online descriptions of trials.


If this is to be believed, Big Pharm has once again poisoned us all. In fact, this might prove to be their Biggest Hit (mafia vernacular) of all time. I mean if we consider the number of people who rely on these drugs for sleep in our brave new mandatory-anticircadian world.

I had a love-hate relationship with Ambien (Zolpidem). I took as needed and was happy to have periods when I didn't need it. Lately, I've been relying on it a great deal as bipolar sleep can be non-existent during mania.

But what I just read is enough to convince me not to take the stuff ever again.

I am extremely angry. I feel this is exactly how life is going to be for hundreds of millions of people as we move forward in time. Life is going to become cheaper and cheaper to corporations like the nexus that produce this. I mean the people who always get away with it.

And I am really angry at the F.D.A. I've always said if a drug like Thalidomide were developed today, it would sail right through the F.D.A. Thalidomide: remember the "flipper babies"--sorry, no euphemism would do right now--of the sixties? That was Thalidomide. Sylvia Plath even wrote a poem by that name. (This was arguably in bad taste, since the flipper babies in her piece were certain of the poet's own malformed poems that had earned her disdain.) England didn't stop the drug. We did. The F.D.A. protected us then. Today, I'm convinced that same drug would sail right through. No, wait. Maybe it's only the ones that live they're worried about. Dead cancer patients tell no tales.

Here's a big problem with the oversight of the F.D.A. You might not realize this, but the same people who approve the drugs in the first place are the ones who recall the drugs. This is a BIG problem. People are loath to admit their own mistakes, especially when it's a matter of massive mortality. If you want to lobby for something that will make a positive change in the lives of countless millions, lobby that the government change the structure of the oversight process.

It's all a big numbers crunching game and ethics has nothing to do with it. Free enterprise is once again way too free.

I am going back to my O.T.C. herbal Valerian starting tonight and pitching the Ambien. The cats love my breath smelling like that anyway. It's second only to catnip on most cat's wish lists.

I tried to discover if Dr. Daniel F. Kripke (Professor Emeritus at U.C.S.D.) might have a personal agenda or even a vendetta here, since he runs a sleep clinic and treats things like sleep disorders, seasonal affective disorder, etc.

I mean is this a war started because of a conflict of interest he has with an industry that has cornered a market he wants in on with his alternative sleep aides?

I don't really know yet.

I do know the "legitimate" media picked up this story and ran like hell with it this week so you're going to hear this again.

But just in case you didn't and you heard it here first, please read up on what looks like something too well-founded to be easily dismissed.

Here's an excerpt from the CBS News story:

The study found people who took 18 sleeping pills or fewer per year had more than 3.5 times higher a risk for death than those who didn't take any sleeping pills. What's more, people taking more than 132 sleeping pills per year were at five times higher risk for death and 35 percent higher risk for cancer.

"We are not certain. But it looks like sleeping pills could be as risky as smoking cigarettes," study author Dr. Daniel F. Kripke, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, told WebMD.

For the study, published in the Feb. 27 issue of BMJ Open, researchers tracked more than 10,500 people who were prescribed sleeping pills for an average of 2.5 years between 2002 and 2007. Prescribed sleeping pills included benzodiazepines, such as Restori; non-benzodiazepines, such as Ambien, Intermezzo, Lunesta, and Sonata; barbiturates; and sedative antihistamines. The researchers compared survival among these patients with that of 23,500 people matched for age, sex, lifestyle factors, and underlying health problems who did not take sleeping pills.

The risk was found for every age group, but was greatest among 18- to 55-year-olds. Researchers found these elevated risks after ruling out other factors that may contribute to death risk.

"We tried every practical strategy to make these associations go away, thinking that they could be due to use by people with more health problems, but no matter what we did the associations with higher mortality held," study co-author Robert D. Langer, a physician at the Jackson Hole Center for Preventive Medicine in Jackson, Wyoming, said in a statement.

"What our study shows is that sleeping pills are hazardous to your health and might cause death by contributing to the occurrence of cancer, heart disease and other ailments," Kripke, who also works at the Scripps Clinic Viterbi Family Sleep Center in San Diego, said in a hospital written statement.

The authors point out the study only shows an association and does not prove cause and effect. But Kripke thinks physicians should seek alternatives for treating insomnia. He said when insomnia is caused by depression, doctors should treat the psychological disorder rather than prescribing sleeping pills.

I'm going to make sure to tell my loved ones to sue the asses off everyone responsible for poisoning us and not making full disclosure if I end up one of their "hits."

Most troubling is Kripke's allegation that the F.D.A. used later tests to bury one indicating a high degree of oncogenicity for Ambien in the early trials.

Things like that don't change over night. Oncogencity is oncogenicity. They didn't redesign the drug. Get real. I've seen this same lying, murderous thing happen with the evil drug Depakote.

How many trials do you think it took them to get the hematological pathology for Depakote down to their wonderful "25%."

One quarter of people who take Depakote are going to have blood that can't function normally and start crippling all their other organ systems as a result. Wow. Congratulations. How many trials did it take for you to get it from the more probable 60% to that still ridiculous figure of 25%? I'm guessing a lot of trays of rats were sacrificed to get to that funny low point on the statistical range. Just keep putting more sheets of cookies in the overheated statistical oven until you get one tray with only a quarter of the cookies burned to a crisp. Sick and evil. Big Pharm.

I'm going to shout now. I warned you first.


I know you're thinking, "Just fix the F.D.A." But that won't solve it. Big Pharm is too powerful now and the money is just insanely good. They'd probably take hits out on people sooner than surrender any patents at this point.


Have a nice day.

If you live in a rather genial Evil Empire like I do, you try to make the best of the better moments.

It's all you can do.

But please stop taking Lunesta, Intermezzo, Ambien or any of the others. I mean unless you want to die thirty years too soon.

Cancer can be a very slow, excruciating death and you'll probably have to commit suicide at some point when you realize that you have zero chance of recovery and 100% chance of continually suffering.

Sorry for a downer post.

But--for once--it's not my fault.

Go watch or do something happy now.

Sad things like this make me crave something frothy and delicious.

Like gay porn. Or a milkshake.


  1. Yikes, even Benadryl. Benadryl also puts you at risk for dementia, at least when older people take it--don't know if there is a long-term risk for young people. I assume Unisom [doxylamine] has the same effect (it's the same type of med. as Benedryl).

    I wonder if healing mechanisms in sleep are interrupted with these meds? Like the way alcohol messes with REM sleep. They knock you out, but unconsciousness does not equal sleep.

    A quick Big Mac heart attack sounds lovely, but then again you could end up with a disabling stroke instead. Or an expensive triple-bypass--the docs would rather keep you alive long enough to rack up some huge bills, you know. Eating like you have a death wish isn't exactly a surgical strike!!

    As far as herbals go, Skullcap is great for when your mind is racing or you're irritable/bitchy.

    Yarrow is my favorite insomnia herb, though most people don't find it that sedating. It's generally used for fighting off colds in the early stages. The Cherokee used it for insomnia, though.

    Neither of these are recommended for long-term, steady use (and neither is Valerian). Even Chamomile can become toxic if you over-do it.

  2. Paul Dinello's ManservantMarch 31, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    I'm sooo glad you posted this! I've been taking sleeping pills (antihistamine-formula) for several years now, 2 a night, every day of the year. I have a wonky body clock, and the pills had been wonderful for helping curb chronic insomnia. I *had* been worried about taking anything that regularly, because it seems *everything* is toxic in one way or another, but these things are [deliberately, no doubt] addictive and you find yourself reaching for the bottle without thinking. Like you, I'm off them as of this moment.

  3. Hi Amy, "P.D.M.."

    "P.D.M.," you should probably read Amy's comment above yours, since I'm thinking maybe you're talking about the same medicine? And that was one of my "fallback" O.T.C.'s so that bums me.

    Amy, I'm hoping that's a "groggy" temporary dementia from the Benadryl in older folks, but I'm probably wearing rosy glasses since you say "dementia" which isn't "grogginess."

    I never tried either of the two herbals you mention (and no chamomille apart from tea). The name skullcap scares me lol. It sounds so medieval!

    I wonder if it would have any effect on me.

    I tried Melatonin twice in my life and both times was a bad experience but I think that's me. Second time I had a bad allergic reaction with horrible itchiness so never again. Not that anyone mentioned melatonin, but it was an "in" otc sleep aide a few years ago.

    I had a hard time sleeping but not nearly as bad as I thought.

    My sleep wasn't as deep. I never even thought, to be honest, Amy, about the difference between unconsciousness and sleep--well, when I used to drink I knew that was it. I didn't even think that might be why I craved it. It fit an addiction pattern perhaps. But it felt "innocent" because prescribed and socially acceptable and because I didn't exhibt any the other bad addictive behavior that went along with the drinking.

    So: lightbulb moment. Thanks.

    I took two Valerian. I remember reading it's virtually impossible to overdose on Valerian but I didn't feel the need for a lot.

    I was going to go back and take out the really cavalier close of the blog post about eating to kill yourself and of course you're right. It's no solution. I figured leave it because nobody's going to take it seriously and they'll probably realize it's a joke about how we migrate from one semi-suicidal thing to another, although it's usually with less intention.

    You would have laughed like hell at me if you saw me this early morning. Malkin's on his second (follow up) whammy dose to kill the worms that recurred so mysteriously even though everything had been sterilized and he doesn't go out or mix with cats.

    I found this thing on the floor and I became convinced it was the first and only tapeworm segment. I researched online and realized it was 100X too big to be a tapeworm segment. Later, I realized it was a smooshed dried cranberry from my Anna's chocolate and trail mix thingie. They're all flattened and creepy looking.

    It was such a David Cronenberg fifteen minutes though.

    I sounded like a complete madman.

    I'm happy to say Malkin never deposited a "tapeworm segment" anywhere. I don't even believe he had tapeworms though Lee said the vet said they could be and look different.

    I think it was those roundworms or something. Because they're "tiny tiny."

    They're dead again but apparently they're zombies.

    I wish I could score more Drontal even though this stuff worked "last" time. Why is there a "last time." IT should be once and done.

    Or maybe I should just get holy water.

    I would enjoy sprinkling holy water on Malkin.

    Oh, I even have a bottle meant to hold holy water. It's an old Catholic death kit I found in a thrift store.

    I'm planning on selling it on EBAY by advertising it as a "vampire killing kit."

    1. I had a bad experience with melatonin as well. I'm tempted to say it ought to be prescription-only, but I'd hate to set a precedent with regard to herbals. Anyway, people ought to do their research and proceed with caution.

      Valerian affects the same brain receptors that benzodiazepines do (e.g. Valium, Xanax). I assume that some of the same cautions apply--that is, use as-needed and not long-term. Herbalists routinely caution that it's not for long-term use. Also not to mix with alcohol.

      Skullcap is in the mint family. I find it milder/less "druggy" than Valerian but better for irritability and tension headache. Best effect is from tinctures (those little dropper bottles in the healthfood store). Effect of the tea is very mild.

      Kava is another nice sedative/hypnotic; I'm surprised it's still legal! It makes you sort of happy-dopey-mellow the way e.g. Nyquil makes you mellow, but the effect isn't as strong and druggy as the Nyquil. Also not to mix with alcohol, and prolonged over-use can lead to liver damage. But very nice if you really need to mellow out--the tincture would be the strongest but the tea also works. I don't use it anymore; doesn't take much to knock me on my ass nowadays.

      Hops and Passionflower are also mild herbal sedatives. Hops is a mild muscle relaxant too. Neither is supposed to be used if the patient is depressed.

      Catnip is a very mild sedative similar in effect to Chamomile (like Chamomile, it is helpful for indigestion). You would of course have to share with Malkin. Funny, catnip and valerian stimulate cats and sedate us.

      Re: Benadryl
      "Diphenhydramine further suppresses the activity of one of the main brain cell messenger chemicals whose activity is reduced by Alzheimer’s disease."

      --wish I had time to research further, but it sounds as if, long-term, it could knock off a few IQ points or something. It blocks acetylcholine--among other things, we need this neurotransmitter to think. Alzheimers drugs like Aricept help to retain what little acetylcholine is there (levels become lower with age). It also raises the risk of Alzheimer's in Parkinson's patients, and can exacerbate Restless Legs Syndrome for those who have it.

      see also here:

      Don't know if adverse effects in younger folks are significant as far as acetylcholine goes. Older folks are more at risk of adverse effects in general (not just because they tend to be on multiple prescriptions).

      Hope there's no need to sprinkle Malkin with holy water!!
      That reminds me--when Romeo and Sam were little hellions we used to occasionally use water pistols for, uh, behavior modification. When they got older we would just imitate the noise of the water pistol and it worked just as well.

      Re: the would-be tapeworm segment, I convinced myself I had a bizarre skin infection and it turned out to be red dye stains from handling my iron supplements with damp hands. Derp!!

      I'm sure you would get lots of bids for a vampire-killing kit (cuz ohmygawd, vampires are so hawt). If you time it around the release of the next Twilight movie in November, you would probably do even better!

  4. Thanks for the breakdown on your experience with herbals.

    I laughed when I read about your "bizarre skin infection." Because that's, like, so me.

    I hope you and yours are all well and having fun. It seems spring came early and almost every other day is great for an "outing." Not the kind Michelangelo Signorelli does. The other kind of outing.

    I remember when kava kava was so hot.

    Why did I keep capitalizing valerian earlier.

    I guess I'm thinking I'm talking about the Roman emperor and not the herb.

    I thought the last Twilight movie was one of the most unintentionally funny movies I've seen.

    They can't have sex without him breaking the bed to splinters. She has a killer period that requires transfusions. And so on.

    And yet they all keep straight faces through the whole thing. I imagine those actors laugh like hell behind the scenes.

    Except for Kristin. Who probably wanders off and chews on furniture or something.

  5. I love the word "tincture" by the way.

    I always think of Poe and his beloved tincture of opium, laudanum.

    I guess that was everybody's beloved back in the day.

  6. My favorite Twilight spoof video: "Twilight Farts"

    Shrieking with laughter, tears rolling down my face. Which shows how amazingly juvenile my sense of humor can be. Also how often the Twilight characters appear to 1) have gas, or 2) smell gas

    I like this one too:

    So stupid, yet so hilarious.

  7. ty for the lolz!

    YouTube is a great way to kill whatever "serious" thought is killing the hour.

    I'm sure you saw the Jane Austen Fight Club video?

    Love that one too.

    Literary send ups are often so well done on there.

    But then everybody has a green screen know and the younger generation is so media savvy it's scary.