Addictive Sleep Aids Popular

Actress Eva Longoria poses in the press room after hosting The ALMA Awards in Los Angeles on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009. (AP Photo/Dan
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Despite newer alternatives, doctors still frequently prescribe potentially addictive sleep aids. A new study in the journal Sleep shows that this is especially true for patients who are 65 or older and those who rely on public health insurance.

"Some of the most vulnerable populations in the United States are at greater risk of receiving prescription sleep medication with a high abuse potential," says Rajesh Balkrishnan, Ph.D., in a news release. Balkrishnan is Ohio State University's Merrell Dow professor of pharmacy and one of the study's authors.

Balkrishnan says doctors may be considering whether their patients have prescription drug coverage in deciding which drug to prescribe.

Balkrishnan and colleagues analyzed data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS). They looked at 95 million visits to doctors related to sleep problems from 1996 to 2001.

Nearly two-thirds of those visits resulted in a prescription for medication, and three-quarters of those prescriptions were for a benzodiazepine.