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Sleep drug abuse rises 6 times 2007 levels: DOH

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Abuse of the insomnia drug Zolpidem to relieve stress has increased to six times 2007 levels, health authorities said yesterday.

The Department of Health (DOH) announced the most commonly abused drugs over the past six years. The abuse rate of Zolpidem ranked the fourth, having increased from 0.7 percent in 2007 to 4.3 percent this year.

The ranking of the abuse rate of ketamine increased from the fifth in 2010 to the third this year, according to DOH statistics.

Chief doctor of the psychiatric department in Chimei Medial Center Lin Chin-Chia (林進嘉) said, “Many people nowadays take Zolpidem as a way to relieve their stress. However, it could lead to drug addiction in the long run and a patient's quality of sleep will worsen when the dose is increased.”

According to statistics from the Bureau of National Health Insurance (BNHI), there are nearly 20,000 people in Taiwan who could be addicted to Zolpidem, which is sold under brand names including Stilnox, Ambien and Sublinox.

Lin said that there are many possible causes of insomnia, like anxiety and depression. Insomnia can not be healed by medication alone if the patient does not solve these problems. However, it is very easy for a patient to become addicted to Zolpidem, so it should be used in moderation.

“Many people who are addicted to Zolpidem go to many hospitals and clinics so they can get prescriptions for it,” said BNHI official Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏). “The BNHI is aware of the issue.”

Chen said that the BNHI established an online database for doctors to record the information of patients who take more than 1.3 Zolpidem pills per day. The BNHI suggested doctors check the data base before prescribing drugs like Stilnox, Ambien and Sublinox to monitor the possibility of abuse.

Lin suggested that insomnia sufferers try to adjust their lifestyles before turning to medication. He said that people can avoid insomnia by establishing good sleeping habits, creating an ideal environment for sleeping and relieving stress properly.

Ketamine Abuse also Increases

A DOH official said that ketamine abuse has also become a serious issue as it is easy to obtain and its price is low compared to other drugs.

Food and Drug Administration official Tsai Wen-ying (蔡文瑛) said that taking ketaimne can cause urination disorders in the long run.

The DOH has been promoting the proper way of using controlled substances in order to decrease the drug abuse rate.

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