Chapter 7
How Much Are Sleeping Pills Used in the United States?

I do not think anybody has reliable information on how much Americans take sleeping pills. Most scientific discussion has cited data from the National Prescription Audit, a survey system conducted by IMS America, Ltd. (now part of IQVIA). Their survey methods were proprietary, and I do not know in detail what they were, but they involve computerized monitoring of retail pharmacy sales. According to the Wall Street Journal, IMS Health data showed about 60 million prescriptions for hypnotics in the U.S. in 2010.[63]  I believe this 60 million may have been an underestimate, but the number of hypnotic prescriptions dropped after 2012. Considering both United Nations data[64]  and the newspaper reports of IMS data, I have estimated that about ten percent of U.S. adults were probably taking sleeping pills in 2010, and the percentage will probably exceed seven percent in 2018. The U.S. government seems to have no clear data about the use of sleeping pills, even though most are addicting drugs regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

At some personal expense, I filed Freedom of Information requests, asking the FDA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Customs what the sales of hypnotics were in the United States. Only by threatening legal action was I able to get U.S. government agencies to admit that they did not have the information. I believe it. I believe that the U.S. government does not know how many sleeping pills Americans use and what percentage of Americans use them. The government agencies also have only vague information about how often misuse of hypnotics is combined with misuse of narcotics, though the combination increases the overdose risks. Considering that the hypnotics are addicting drugs and drugs of abuse, I think our government ought to pay better attention.

Endnotes for Chapter 7

63. Petersen, A. Dawn of a new sleep drug? Wall Street Journal, D1-D4. 7-19-2011. New York, Dow Jones. Available on the newspaper’s website at to a website outside this eBook. [return]

64. International Narcotics Control Board. Psychotropic Substances: Statistics for 2009. (E/INCB/2010/3), 1-388Link to a website outside this eBook. 2011. New York, United Nations. United Nations Publication E/INCB/2010/3. [return]