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Medications for Insomnia and Anxiety Could Be Dangerous

A new Canadian study suggests medications to treat insomnia and anxiety may increase the risk of mortality.

According to a study conducted by Geneviève Belleville, a professor at Université Laval’s School of Psychology, the risk could increase by as much as 36 percent.

Dr. Belleville arrived at these results through analysis of 12 years of data on over 14,000 Canadians in Statistics Canada’s National Population Health Survey. The data includes information on the social demographics, lifestyle, and health of Canadians age 18 to 102, surveyed every two years between 1994 and 2007.

During this period, respondents who reported having used medication to treat insomnia or anxiety at least once in the month preceding the survey had a mortality rate of 15.7 percent. Respondents who reported not having used such medications had a rate of 10.5 percent.

After controlling for personal factors that might affect mortality risk, notably alcohol and tobacco consumption, physical health, physical activity level, and the presence or absence of depressive symptoms among participants, Dr. Belleville established that the consumption of sleeping pills or anxiety-relieving medications was associated with a 36 percent increase in the risk of death.

A number of hypotheses have been put forward to explain the link between use of these medications and increased mortality.

Sleeping pills and anxiolytics affect reaction time, alertness, and coordination and are thus conducive to falls and other accidents.

They may also have an inhibiting effect on the respiratory system, which could aggravate certain breathing problems during sleep. These medications are also central nervous system inhibitors that may affect judgment and thus increase the risk of suicide.

“These medications aren’t candy, and taking them is far from harmless,” commented Dr. Belleville.

“Given that cognitive behavioral therapies have shown good results in treating insomnia and anxiety, doctors should systematically discuss such therapies with their patients as an option. Combining a pharmacological approach in the short term with psychological treatment is a promising strategy for reducing anxiety and promoting sleep.”

The study is published in the latest edition of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

Source: Université Laval

Medications for Insomnia and Anxiety Could Be Dangerous

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Medications for Insomnia and Anxiety Could Be Dangerous. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 11, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/09/10/medications-for-insomnia-and-anxiety-could-be-dangerous/17963.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.