We know that, for some of the people reading this right now, it may already be too late. You may already have the prescription bought and paid for and in your hand right now. You may have even started taking it. But we’re guessing that if you’re on the internet googling about off label sleep medications, there was a lot of information about them you didn’t know before you started asking questions.
First off, we want to congratulate you on being wise enough to know that you needed more info. Most people aren’t even aware that doctors can prescribe medications off-label – much less the associated dangers. The practice of prescribing prescription pills off-label is a highly controversial one. Some doctors still do it despite this controversy, either for profit or because they naively believe it is the best solution. But there are instances where taking a medication off-label can be extremely hazardous to your health. And there is certainly no exception when it comes to sleep medication. In fact, off-label prescription sleep aids may be the most dangerous of all.
How to Know If You’re Taking an Off-label Prescription Sleeping Pill
As with any medication your doctor prescribes you, you should ask for the name and what it is designed to treat or cure. If you’ve never heard of the medication before, don’t be afraid to ask questions! If your doctor gets defensive or hostile by your inquisitive nature, then it may be time to find a new doctor. But if they are understanding and patient with you, then you’ll know you’re getting advice and information you can trust. You should also ask your doctor whether the medication is off-label or not. If they confirm that it is off-label, be sure to ask them why they’re prescribing it that way and to what degree of certainty they believe it will work for you. As a patient, you are entitled to accurate responses to these important questions.
We have a short list of the most commonly prescribed off-label medications for sleep. If any of these medications are in your medicine cabinet right now, use with caution. Read every single word of fine print in the warning pamphlet, and be sure to talk to your pharmacist about your doctor’s decision. In some instances, your pharmacist may know more about the medication, potential side effects, and possible harmful interactions with other medications than your primary care doctor. Again, don’t be afraid to ask these questions. If you don’t get all the information you need, you could be risking your health.
Amitriptyline is one of the more popular off-label prescriptions doctors prescribe for sleep. But it was not designed to solve that problem. It was originally discovered to be helpful anxiety disorders, major depression, and bipolar disorder, among other mental health issues. It is one of the older generations of antidepressant medications. Some doctors believe it is also helpful for people diagnosed with ADHD. Although it is in frequently prescribed for this purpose, it is still considered an off-label script. Other uncommon, on-label reasons to prescribe amitriptyline include fibromyalgia, posturepedic neuralgia, and other indiscriminate nerve pain. Unfortunately, amitriptyline carries the following side effects with it:
- More frequent nightmares
- Daytime drowsiness
- Lack of sexual desire
- Blood pressure drop when standing
- Feeling confused
- Gaining weight
Mirtazapine is another popular off-label prescription sleep aid. It is the generic of the name brand Remeron, but may go by many other names. Like amitriptyline, mirtazapine is also an antidepressant. It is one of the other old school antidepressant medications which does not fit into a typical SSRI classification. Mirtazapine is a popular medication for anxiety disorders, nausea, and the cessation of uncontrolled vomiting. It can also be prescribed to help stimulate appetite in underweight people. Common side effects of mirtazapine include:
- Rapid, extreme weight gain
- Daytime fatigue
- Swelling of the extremities
- Spikes in your triglyceride and cholesterol levels
- Dry mouth
Trazodone is another drug you should look out for if you have been prescribed an off-label sleep medication. Part of the reason doctors like to prescribe this medication off-label for insomnia to treat concurrent disorders like anxiety – which often keeps people awake at night. Many medical experts believe this is also a good medication for people whose depression is accompanied by substance abuse. Lastly, doctors and patients agree that this antidepressant is a much more affordable medication compared to similar drugs which are designed to treat the same symptoms.
One of the more disconcerting issues with trazodone is the dosing instructions doctors sometimes give patients depending on what the pillows used for. The vast majority of antidepressants start at a low dose and gradually titrate up in order to avoid severe side effects. The process is reversed if a patient has to go off the medication. But patients who use trazodone for sleep are told that they can take anywhere from one half of a pill two three pills per night for sleep. They’re also told they don’t have to take them every single night, and that quitting the medication cold turkey is perfectly safe. This contradiction is both confusing and worrisome, in addition to the pill’s known side effects:
- Priapism, or an erection lasting for more than 4 hours
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Worsening depression or thoughts of suicide
- Daytime drowsiness
- Orthostatic hypertension
Fix Your Sleepless Nights With Natural Cures Instead
Prescription medications, regardless of the name or their intended treatment, are expensive and difficult to get. They’re also dangerous more often than not. But we put our trust and faith in the medical professionals who prescribe them because the expense and the effort makes it feel like it’s worth it. This doesn’t always turn out to be the case (unfortunately).
Instead of trying the nuclear option first, how about experimenting with some natural sleep aids? These high-quality supplements are made with natural, pure, potent ingredients that grow straight out of the ground. They’ve been used for centuries take care of this problem – whereas prescription drugs have only been around for less than a century. There are no side effects to worry about – other than the positive side effect of getting more healthy, restorative sleep and waking up refreshed the next day. So why not try a natural, effective sleep aid tonight?