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... contain prescription meds.

We all know when we have sleepless night or had trouble sleeping how irritating and frustrating it felt when we watched our alarm clock tick faster ‘til time to get up for work or school feeling bitchy, grumpy and unhappy. When I have sleepless I’m all bitchy, grumpy and unhappy and most of all I can’t concentrate. I’ve taken sleeping pills from over the counter on occasions. Until one day I came to find out I really rely on sleeping pills each time I have trouble sleeping and become worried about it. I went to see my doctor and he gave me a prescription pills to relax my muscle. And again I’m still worried about it. Well, right now, I hardly take sleeping pills anymore; only take them when I really need it. [Six ways to Ruin your Night]

Today I read this article: Herbal sleeping pills contain prescription meds. Very interesting…

Thousands of Canadians turn to herbal remedies to help them get a good night's sleep, believing that because the products are all-natural, there's no risk of addiction.

But some have found this is not always the case. Health Canada has recalled five herbal products in recent months because they contained potentially addictive prescription drugs. That's sparked a number of class action lawsuits against the manufacturers as well as worries that many Canadians may still be using these potentially addictive products.

Leslie Alexander and Brenda Connell suffered from insomnia, as many Canadians do. According to a recent study by Statistics Canada, one in every seven Canadians aged 15 or older -- about 3.3 million of us -- have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep.

Both women turned to an herbal remedy called Sleepees, thinking it would help them finally get a full night's sleep.

"It put me to sleep for sure. I had what I thought was the best sleep of my entire life," recalls Connell.

"I slept beautifully for pretty much as long as I was using it," says Leslie Alexander.

But Alexander, a Vancouver-based folk singer, became troubled by the fact that the pills seemed to work "too well" and decided to stop taking them. That's when, she says, she plunged into a deep depression.

"My insomnia became total for about two weeks, meaning I was lucky if I got an hour or two of sleep a night. Then I had several months of feeling hopeless and not wanting to live," she says.

She found a Health Canada advisory online that said the product contained an undeclared drug called estazolam, a prescription sleeping medication that can be addictive.

Leslie realized she was going through withdrawal. Connell also heard about the recall and stopped taking the drug immediately, plunging her into withdrawal.

"I noticed a couple of weeks [after stopping the pills], I started to feel really strange. I started to feel a numbness in my left hand. I would get heart palpitations. I started to feel like I was getting depressed, panic, anxiety, fear. I felt like I was losing my mind," she recalls.

"I felt duped. I felt quite fearful. How was I going to get off the drug -- how was I going to sleep?" she says.

"It would have been nice to know what I was taking, which I thought was a health product. But it was laced with a drug. I was really upset."

In the past year, Health Canada has issued advisories on four other so-called natural sleep products that contain undeclared and potentially addictive prescription drugs.

* Eden Herbal Formulation Serenity Pills II
* Eden Herbal Formulations Sleep Ease Dietary Supplement
* Salt Spring Herbals Sleep Well Dietary Supplement
* Optimum Health Care Sleep Easy

None of the products, including Sleepees, were authorized for sale in Canada and all contained prescription drugs that can be habit-forming when used for as little as a few months.

According to Health Canada, estazolam belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, and could be dangerous to those with an allergy to any benzodiazepines (such as Valium, Restoril and Ativan), or those with the neuromuscular disorder myasthenia gravis or sleep apnea. In addition, Estazolam should only be used by pregnant women, if absolutely necessary and with caution by the elderly, and those with a history of substance abuse. Side effects include dizziness, confusion, depression, loss of memory and hallucinations.

David Klein has filed a class action lawsuit against the makers of Sleepees. The amount of damages sought in the lawsuit has not yet been set.

The Canadian distributor of Sleepees, Our World Inc., says the tainted batch Health Canada investigated came from China and that the product has been reformulated.

"There's almost no question that this is part of a bigger problem," Klein says. "The quality control at some of these Chinese factories is very poor and there is limited or no supervision by Canadian importers."

Our World Inc. says Sleepees has been reformulated and now includes ingredients such as hops, reishi mushroom, valerian, helicidum and melatonin.

Both Connell and Alexander are recovering from their addiction but remain wary about using other similar herbal products.

"After you've been duped by one product, you kind of question the rest of the products. If they can do it with one, how many others are affected?" wonders Connell.

Health Canada reminds consumers that drugs and natural health products that have been authorized for sale in Canada will have an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN), a Natural Product Number (NPN) or a Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM) on the label. These numbers indicate that the products have been assessed by Health Canada for safety, effectiveness and quality.

Those who have found themselves addicted to any of these recalled products should seek the advice of their doctor since stopping the medication can result in severe withdrawal symptoms.

2 comments

Melody said... @ August 21, 2007 at 3:59 AM

hi there, i almost got to take sleeping pills, coz sometimes i could hardly sleep, but reading now your posts make my mind change.,

anyways..., hope you have a nice day

Midas said... @ August 21, 2007 at 10:39 PM

I have never tried sleeping pills. I am afraid I'll never wake up if I take one.

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