Statistically speaking, a sleeping pill overdose is among the most common ways used by women to attempt or to commit suicide. Sleeping pills act by slowing down the body functions, by relaxing the muscles, and chemically lulling a person to sleep. In theory, a sleeping pill overdose would pretty much shut down the entire body, including the nervous system, respiratory system, and the cardiovascular systems --- all of which would eventually lead to death. A sleeping pill overdose, thanks to the tranquilizing and anesthetic qualities of those medications, can kill a person without pain or agony, which is also the reason why it is very common in suicide cases --- one of which is the death of Marilyn Monroe. However, as police investigators and those who actually survived a suicide attempt can at, a sleeping pill overdose does not always work.
The fact is, most of the sleeping pills that are potent enough to be used as a means to commit suicide are no longer being prescribed by doctors. Some relatively high dosage pills might still be available in hospitals but these are only used for anesthetic purposed during major surgery. Sleeping pills that are still sold in the market have milder formulas and are no longer as potentially lethal as the sleep-inducing medications available some years back. In other words, the current generation of pills are now chemically and purposefully designed to be safer. One of the main goals is to make sleeping pills less potent and make sleeping pill overdose lose its "appeal" as a painless means of committing suicide. However, that doesn't mean that there won't be significant damage to the body or mind, as those factors are still present despite the lower risks of modern pills.
One more factor to consider would be the specifics involved in the overdose. Some people might have a tolerance for the components of the sleeping pills, thus increasing the chances of survival. Other factors including blood chemistry and the possibility of intervention during the attempted suicide can reduce the probabilities of death. In many cases, alcohol was used supposedly to speed up the effects of the pills. since a sleeping pill overdose does requires time to fully work and deliver its fatal effects.
Modern sleeping pill overdose situations can still cause considerable damage since present-day drugs almost always produces an effect on the central nervous system. Normal doses only pose very minimal risks but side-effects can still be expected after using large quantities of the drug. The most serious side effect would be the complete shutdown of the neural pathways and receptors that control some of the body's systems. Someone who survives a sleeping pill overdose might find himself completely paralyzed, with little or no control over his bodily functions --- left only to live life as a "vegetable."
Sleeping pill overdose is also a very significant issue in the realm of psychology. Most people would assume that a person who chooses to end life via a sleeping pill overdose has a very serious psychological problem. In most cases, physical stress or a mental illness can be associated to suicides. Mentally-ill individuals who survived their own suicide attempt using sleeping pills are in danger of suffering memory loss, which can occur due to the lack of oxygen in the brain. Other suicide survivors have exhibited paranoid delusional tendencies or were found to have psychological disorders prior to the suicide attempt.
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