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 cites data from the National Prescription Audit, a survey system conducted by IMS America, Ltd. Their survey methods are proprietary, and I do not know in detail what they are, 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.[55]  I believe this may be an underestimate.

The U.S. Government seems to have no clear data about the use of sleeping pills, even although most are addicting drugs regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency under the narcotics laws. It is known that some sleeping pills become drugs of abuse.

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.  Under penalty of law, the government agencies stalled, but once threatened with legal action, these government agencies stated 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.  Considering that the hypnotics are addicting drugs and drugs of abuse, I think our government ought to pay better attention.

Considering both United Nations data[56] and the newspaper reports of IMS data, I have estimated that about 10% of U.S. adults were probably taking sleeping pills in 2010.

Endnotes for Chapter 7

55. 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]

56. 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]