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Anti-anxiety drugs, sleeping pills linked to risk of death

Date:
March 31, 2014
Source:
University of Warwick
Summary:
Anti-anxiety drugs and sleeping pills have been linked to an increased risk of death, according to new research. The large study shows that several anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) drugs or hypnotic drugs (sleeping pills) are associated with a doubling in the risk of mortality. Although these findings are based on routine data and need to be interpreted cautiously, the researchers recommended that a greater understanding of their impact is essential.

Pills (stock image). The large study, published in BMJ, shows that several anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) drugs or hypnotic drugs (sleeping pills) are associated with a doubling in the risk of mortality.
Credit: chea / Fotolia

Anti-anxiety drugs and sleeping pills have been linked to an increased risk of death, according to new research from the University of Warwick.

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The large study, published in BMJ, shows that several anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) drugs or hypnotic drugs (sleeping pills) are associated with a doubling in the risk of mortality. Although these findings are based on routine data and need to be interpreted cautiously, the researchers recommended that a greater understanding of their impact is essential.

Professor Scott Weich, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Warwick, explained "The key message here is that we really do have to use these drugs more carefully. This builds on a growing body of evidence suggesting that their side effects are significant and dangerous. We have to do everything possible to minimise over reliance on anxiolytics and sleeping pills."

"That's not to say that they cannot be effective. But particularly due to their addictive potential we need to make sure that we help patients to spend as little time on them as possible and that we consider other options, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, to help them to overcome anxiety or sleep problems."

The study accounted, where possible, for other factors such as age, smoking and alcohol use, other prescriptions and socioeconomic status. Crucially, the team controlled for contributing risk factors such as sleep disorders, anxiety disorders and other psychiatric illness in all participants.

34,727 people were tracked for seven and a half years on average from the time that they first received prescriptions for either an anxiolytic or hypnotic drug.

Benzodiazepines were the most commonly prescribed drug class, including diazepam and temazepam. The study also examined the effects of two other groups of drugs; the so-called 'Z-drugs' and all other anxiolytic and hypnotic drugs. Many patients received more than one drug over the course of the study, and 5% received prescriptions for drugs from all three groups.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Warwick. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Weich, H. L. Pearce, P. Croft, S. Singh, I. Crome, J. Bashford, M. Frisher. Effect of anxiolytic and hypnotic drug prescriptions on mortality hazards: retrospective cohort study. BMJ, 2014; 348 (mar19 5): g1996 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.g1996

Cite This Page:

University of Warwick. "Anti-anxiety drugs, sleeping pills linked to risk of death." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140331130846.htm>.
University of Warwick. (2014, March 31). Anti-anxiety drugs, sleeping pills linked to risk of death. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140331130846.htm
University of Warwick. "Anti-anxiety drugs, sleeping pills linked to risk of death." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140331130846.htm (accessed January 31, 2015).

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