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Howard G. Smith, M.D. is a former radio medical editor and talk show host in the Boston Metro area. His "Medical Minute" of health and wellness news and commentary was a regular weekday feature on WBZ-AM, WRKO-AM, and WMRE-AM. His popular two-way talk show, Dr. Howard Smith OnCall, was regularly heard Sunday morning and middays on WBZ.

Dr. Smith has adopted audio and video podcasting as conduits for HEALTH NEWS YOU SHOULD USE. Based on the latest medical, health, and wellness literature these reports provide practical information you can use to keep yourself and your family healthy. Many reports have video versions, and Dr. Smith’s YouTube Channel may be found at:

Trained at Harvard Medical School and a long-time faculty member at Boston Children’s Hospital, he practiced Pediatric Otolaryngology for 40 years in Boston, Southern California, and in central Connecticut.  He is now based in New York City.

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Please note that the news, views, commentary, and opinions that Dr. Smith provides are for informational purposes only. Any changes that you or members of your family contemplate making to lifestyle, diet, medications, or medical therapy should always be discussed beforehand with personal physicians who have been supervising your care.

Jul 23, 2019



Half of the millions using the most common type of sleeping pills might never wake to escape a fire.  Taken to induce sleep and relaxation, the popular benzodiazepine medications or benzos for short include Restoril, Halcion, Ativan, Xanax, and Valium.  This class of drugs induces drowsiness but also suppresses emergency arousal.  Even newer drugs such as Ambien and Lunesta trigger sustained drowsiness and some disorientation.


A new class of medication called DORAs, dual orexin receptor antagonists, induce sleep but permit retention of sensory input including sound, vibration, smell, and lack of oxygen.  This makes for a safer sleeping pill.  After a threat has passed, the medication also re-induces sleep.


To date, only one DORA sleeping pill has won FDA approval.  Belsomra (suvorexant) may only be prescribed those 18 years or older, but its expensive and often not covered by insurance.  As other DORA drugs become available, competition will drive down price and increase availability.


Shouhei Iwakawa, Yuichi Kanmura, Tomoyuki Kuwaki. Orexin Receptor Blockade-Induced Sleep Preserves the Ability to Wake in the Presence of Threat in Mice. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 2019; 12 DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00327


#insomnia #sleepingpill #benzo #benzodiazepine