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


April 1, 2014
Brain & Behavior, Health

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

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.


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2 Responses to Anti-anxiety drugs and sleeping pills linked to risk of death

  1. L Vorster (12089304) May 3, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

    I agree that more research has to be done in order to find out exactly what the side-effects of these drugs on people are. However, I do not believe that we should not use it at all. Yes, everything has a limit and the person misusing it is only shooting him-/herself in the foot.

    With the busy lifestyle of working men and women of today, I believe that the use of this medication would help them and by using it in conjunction with therapy and other self-help strategies can even be more beneficial for people with anxiety and insomnia.

    With the technological developments of today and those yet to come, I am sure scientists will be able to decrease the risks of these drugs if not erase all side-effects completely, thus, giving a sense of relief to the patient knowing this is a first step in the right direction.

  2. Mogano Ramalau 14252628 April 28, 2014 at 8:17 am #

    This findings should be exposed to people to know that the anti-depressent pills are not good for us. We live in place where all the people rely on medics a lot than natural or tradition of how things should be.

    I believe that this research is a major point we have been needing, because i strongly believe that no person in this world should rely on pills for a better sleep at night.

    The pills really damage your central nervous system and you will not go to sleep well without them if you over use them. Warwick University i commend you for this, it is a major point and it should be spread.

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