Kevin Morris 5m 1,246 #sedatives
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
The words “work performance” might cause some concern if we associate it with our manager’s yearly review of us. Or maybe we think about work performance as our ability to be productive, whether we’re employees or managers. Either way, we know we should make it a priority if we want to excel in our careers. Sedative drugs can easily become a roadblock to this, and we need to know why. Here’s an overview of how sedative use could impact work performance.
In October 2021, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). More than 6 million survey respondents reported using sedative drugs illicitly, not to mention millions of others who use sedatives by prescription. While sedatives may not concern us to the same level that other kinds of drugs do, these statistics show we cannot afford to ignore these drugs or downplay their widespread use and abuse. Technically, sedatives can include varieties of benzodiazepines, barbiturates, hypnotics, opioids, and even alcohol. This is because sedatives suppress activity in the central nervous system, producing relaxing and hypnotic effects in users. However, when most people refer to sedatives, they mean the class of drugs known as Z-drugs or “sleeping pills,” such as Ambien.
Ambien is the No. 1 sleeping pill on the market, and this trend could continue in the near future. Not only is this a concern for the Ambien users around age 60 who are further along in their careers, but it’s also a concern for people who are starting out. Recent studies show that a high percentage of college students are reporting increasing levels of sleep-related concerns, especially with their late work hours and exposure to screens’ artificial lighting. With Ambien’s marketing strategy as a reputable brand for 20-plus years and the claim that 30% of Americans have insomnia, it’s easy to see how appealing the medication is. After all, who doesn’t want to feel well-rested?
However, just below the advertisement on Ambien’s website, is a list of warnings about the medication. It turns out that the pursuit of using sedatives to feel well-rested can and often does come with a cost. Common side effects include headache or feeling drugged, while more serious side effects include abnormal behavior, memory loss, anxiety, and “complex sleep behaviors.” These behaviors include getting up in the middle of the night and doing activities without memory, such as driving a car, eating, having sex, talking on the phone or sleep-walking.
These are some examples Ambien’s website lists as potential concerns regarding using the sleep drug. What’s more, these risks could happen with using the drug as prescribed, not risks that occur when people abuse it.
The possibility of amnesia or memory loss due to Ambien use should cause us great concern. Memory loss is a major long-term effect of using Ambien and other sedatives, but it can also show up in the immediate aftermath of taking the drug. Many people have careers that require them to operate machinery or perhaps regularly commute to and from work and other places. We don’t want to risk experiencing those abnormal behaviors or sleep-driving scenarios, especially while at work. However, these are very possible side effects that we cannot overlook. It’s not only a matter of doing something embarrassing while under the influence of Ambien; it’s also the risk of unknowingly putting ourselves and others in immediate danger.
Beyond the danger of driving or operating machinery, there is also the risk of committing unethical acts at work, which could certainly cost us more than a slap on the wrist. Workplace violence and sexual assault are vital threats to any organization. Most of us receive annual training on these topics because, unfortunately, they occur. However, we don’t often associate these things with sedative drug use. We should.
Recent examples of public indecency and sexual assault have come with the “Ambien defense,” which claims individuals who committed these crimes were under the drug’s influence and acted unknowingly. No one wants to experience these complicated situations, especially while at work. Even if innocent, it creates a situation that would make it hard to regain our coworkers’ trust. And, if it were to happen to us by someone who claimed to be under Ambien’s influence, it could cause emotional damage that would most likely require us to find another place of work.
While we might say these instances are extreme examples, they are much more likely than we think. This is not only because of the possibilities tied to Ambien’s side effects, but also because mixing sedative drugs creates additional risk. We might not have a large medicine cabinet lined with various sedative drugs, but 1 in every 12 adults meets the criteria for alcohol addiction. Because alcohol is also a sedative drug, the potential for an overdose increases dramatically. In fact, the heightened risk of mixing alcohol with Ambien or other sedatives is very likely. This is because we don’t have to overdo it with either drug by itself. You could take the prescribed amount of Ambien and a limited amount of alcohol,but when used together, the drugs dangerously intensify each other.
Based on this, the challenges of our work performance increase dramatically when sedative use is part of the equation. Remember, the risk is not tied to overdosing or abusing the drug—it comes with using it. While this drug might be considered a lower potential for abuse compared to other sedatives, it does not seem to have a low potential for negative side effects. Because of this, we should treat sedative drugs with the same level of caution as other drugs and consider how they can impact our work performance. The risk of waiting until something happens is not worth it, either for our careers or the careers of our coworkers.
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