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#1
Old 02-09-2007, 10:40 AM
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Can you OD on OTC sleeping pills?

Sometimes when I have trouble sleeping I take these, but the recommended dosage doesn't usually do it for me, so I take one or two more. Is there any chance I could encounter trouble by doing this?
#2
Old 02-09-2007, 11:15 AM
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This isn't meant to be snide, but I suspect you can OD on just about anything if you use enough of it in a short enough span of time. There's the recent thread about the recent mishap of somebody ODing on water.

It's hard to imagine anybody staying conscious long enough to OD on air, but I know for sure you can pass out from hyperventilating.

I imagine some website would have some semi-authoritative statement about a reasonable dosage of OTC sleeping meds. Just don't drive or operate machinery (does a computer count?) is all you usually hear in the voice-over precautions.
#3
Old 02-09-2007, 11:23 AM
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Most OTC sleeping pills are antihistamines. Generic overdose symptoms for antihistamines are:

extreme sleepiness, confusion, weakness, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, large pupils, dry mouth, flushing, fever, shaking, insomnia, hallucinations, and possibly seizures. The symptoms may begin to appear between 30 minutes and two hours after ingestion. Death, although rare, occurs usually within two to 18 hours.

I'll leave you to discuss other sleeping aids with your doctor. If you're having chronic insomnia, there are better meds out there.
#4
Old 02-09-2007, 11:23 AM
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I'm working off the assumption that when you say "sleep aid," you mean diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in most OTC sleep aids, and Benadryl. Anyway, according to here (PDF), you can take up to 100 mg at once, and 400 mg a day.

If you're using some other sleep aid, I've got nothing.
#5
Old 02-09-2007, 11:29 AM
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I meant products like Sominex or Unisom.

And Zeldar- good point, thanks. I should have asked, how many can I take, if the recomended dose doens't help, without fear of not waking up?

And no chronic insomina, just sometimes maybe I need to wake up in six hours, and want to get to sleep fast, and sleep soundly, would be why I would take them mainly.

Last edited by Wee Bairn; 02-09-2007 at 11:32 AM.
#6
Old 02-09-2007, 12:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wee Bairn
I meant products like Sominex or Unisom.
Which is diphenhydramine.

You should be okay with a few pills in a short period of time. Are you taking them well enough in advance for one pill to work though? I was reliant on these for awhile, maybe you should talk to a doctor if you need something stronger, and (as it seems in your last post) don't need pills every single night.

-tlh, insomniac.
#7
Old 02-09-2007, 05:54 PM
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Cut out the caffeine after lunch and you should be fine. If you must have the taste or the sensation, switch to caffeine-free.
#8
Old 02-09-2007, 09:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wee Bairn
And Zeldar- good point, thanks. I should have asked, how many can I take, if the recomended dose doens't help, without fear of not waking up?
As gotpasswords said, most OTC sleep aids are just generic benadryl. But put it in a blue box, and people will pay $5 more for 16 of them.
OTC diphenhydramine comes in 25mg tablets/caplets, typically. 100 mg would be 4, 400 per day would be 16. I don't know what the actual mg dosage is that is considered dangerous, however.


-foxy
#9
Old 02-09-2007, 09:48 PM
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the LD50 for diphenhydramine in rats is 500 mg/kg.

That does not mean it's a relatively innocuous drug, however. Take too much, and run the risk of hyper-exciteability. Also for men, it can cause acute urinary retention (women too, but not as likely). It'll give one cotton-mouth pretty severely in higher doses, crosses the blood-brain barrier pretty easily, and doesn't induce a normal sleep, but more of a sedated one which is often not truly restful. It may also precipitate elevated intra-ocular pressure and can thus cause acute-angle glaucoma (not pretty to see, let me tell you!)

Several people have claimed it caused an altered consciousness during which they attacked other folks, too.
#10
Old 02-10-2007, 03:36 PM
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Also, Unisom is doxylamine succinate. I don't have time to go look up any info for it right now, but there's that on the table.
#11
Old 02-10-2007, 03:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chaoticbear
Also, Unisom is doxylamine succinate. I don't have time to go look up any info for it right now, but there's that on the table.
It's just another aminoalkyl ether antihistamine, just like diphenhydramine.
#12
Old 02-10-2007, 04:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan
It may also precipitate elevated intra-ocular pressure and can thus cause acute-angle glaucoma (not pretty to see, let me tell you!)
Or to see with, for that matter...
#13
Old 02-11-2007, 11:05 PM
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The rule of thumb in toxicology is "the dose makes the poison"

In other words, you can overdose on anything, given enough persistance and stupidity.
#14
Old 02-11-2007, 11:25 PM
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Why don't you try Valerian? You can find it in any health food store in a variety of forms. It's an old herbal remedy and it really does work for a while, so if you just need it temporarily it may do the trick for you.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valerian_%28plant%29

The side effects aren't as nasty as that over-the-counter stuff you're trying. It sounds like too much of that would be bad for your heart.
#15
Old 02-12-2007, 03:05 AM
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Tragic story.

My neighbor lived with his fiancee. They knew I was a medical student, and one day the fiancee ran up to me as I came home, and shared with me her recent woes. She had recently been hospitalized with a bout of HSV meningoencephalitis. This was her third bout with it -- I recognized that what she was describing to me was Mollaret's meningitis. I also knew that there was often significant neurobehavioral and neuropsychiatric sequelae associated with HSV meningoencephalitis. While I did the usual prefacing of "IANAD" and "go see the doctor if anything bad happens" I did tell both of them not to get alarmed by this strange moods or behaviors, and just be sure to get to the doctor right away if things started getting out of control.

A few months later, a lady knocked on my door. It was my neighbor's mother. The fiancee had driven out to a park and taken (according to her) OTC sleeping pills. No idea if alone, or if in a concoction with other drugs or alcohol. She phoned my neighbor and said good-bye. He frantically looked for her, of course calling the police as well as driving to all of the parks in the area. By the time they found her, she was unrousable, and she died later at the hospital.

I still feel awful about the whole thing, and it makes me shudder to think about it. So yes, they can be dangerous and even deadly.
#16
Old 02-12-2007, 03:26 AM
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paradoxical diphenhydramine agitation is NOT pretty to see.

I had a suicide attempt once that was levitating off the gurney in 4 point leather restraints, spun her head around 180 degrees while projectile vomiting charcoal soup across the room, and then an alien leapt out of her chest.
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#17
Old 02-12-2007, 03:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wee Bairn
Can you OD on OTC sleeping pills?
No.
#18
Old 02-12-2007, 03:54 PM
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Please don't listen to either of the two previous replies. I am not a professional, just someone who thinks that common sense rules over bad advice and terrible humor.
#19
Old 02-12-2007, 04:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan
It may also precipitate elevated intra-ocular pressure and can thus cause acute-angle glaucoma (not pretty to see, let me tell you!)
Can you say a little more about this? Do you mean that, used at a normal dose over time, these will occur?
#20
Old 02-16-2007, 11:36 PM
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Here's some info in a recent story about the toxicity of diphenhydramine.
#21
Old 02-17-2007, 12:35 AM
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FOAF took a whole bottle (not sure what kind, but definitely OTC) in a suicide atempt. Not sure how close he was to death, but I did see him have a seizure as the medics were getting him onto a stretcher.
#22
Old 02-17-2007, 09:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lorene
Can you say a little more about this? Do you mean that, used at a normal dose over time, these will occur?
Pretty unlikely to happen with normal dosing, even over a long time.

Not impossible, though.

The big problem is that antihistamines can make worse a case of elevated intra-ocular pressure, which the person may not have been previously aware of. This can trigger a crisis.

And Will Repair is quite wrong.
#23
Old 02-17-2007, 09:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan
Pretty unlikely to happen with normal dosing, even over a long time.

Not impossible, though.

The big problem is that antihistamines can make worse a case of elevated intra-ocular pressure, which the person may not have been previously aware of. This can trigger a crisis.

And Will Repair is quite wrong.
Thanks for the reply.

Last edited by lorene; 02-17-2007 at 09:39 AM.
#24
Old 02-17-2007, 06:46 PM
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Will Repair. In case you revist this thread, please make sure you understand that black and white answers about medical(and legal) questions are NOT appreciated on the Straight Dope when uttered by people who aren't qualified to give such an answer. I would strongly suggest you not do this again.

samclem GQ moderator
#25
Old 02-18-2007, 08:58 AM
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There is currently a case being investigated in the Bay Area about a Stanford student who disappeared and was found dead in the trunk of her car.

The most recent development in the case is that the examiners found very high levels of diphenhydramine in her system and are thus ruling a suicide. Her family is adamant that she wouldn't commit this offense and are now looking for whoever forced her to take the pills.
#26
Old 02-19-2007, 12:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RSSchen
There is currently a case being investigated in the Bay Area about a Stanford student who disappeared and was found dead in the trunk of her car.

The most recent development in the case is that the examiners found very high levels of diphenhydramine in her system and are thus ruling a suicide. Her family is adamant that she wouldn't commit this offense and are now looking for whoever forced her to take the pills.
Wait, she was found dead in her trunk and they don't suspect foul play?



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#27
Old 02-19-2007, 12:43 AM
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You can OD, but it takes more than a couple, as QtM, chaoticbear and ladyfoxfyre said. Most dudes can take two safely (that's half of the max dose), but I'd call your Doc or his "advice nurse" and double check, because everyones metabolism is different. And although 2 could be safe, if you had a drink along with them, you most certainly shouldn't drive and you could fall and hurt yourself. Please do not take this as "medical advice" take this as something you should talk over with your MD. (My MD has OKed some rather high dosages of an OTC medicine, but only after a physical and he knows me well)

You can buy generic diphenhydramine at the discount store a bottle of 100 for a couple of bucks. Don't shell out big bux for OTC sleep aids. Exact same medicine.

Melatonin will help, but it's not a "sleeping pill".

For some an aspirin helps. Note that many take an aspirin a day for their blood (this is something you should discuss with your Doc), why not at bed time?
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