News Feature | April 1, 2014

Study Shows Sleeping Pills And Anti-Anxiety Drugs Increase Risk Of Death

By Marcus Johnson

A new study conducted at the University of Warwick and published in BMJ has shown that several different anti-anxiety drugs or sleeping pills double the risk of mortality. According to Health Canal, researchers at the University of Warwick argue that more studies should be done in order to validate the data.       

Scott Welch, professor of Psychiatry at the University of Warwick, believes that the side effects of these drugs need to be more thoroughly investigated. “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 minimize over reliance on anxiolytics and sleeping pills,” Welch said. “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 behavioral therapy, to help them to overcome anxiety or sleep problems.”

The study analyzed data from 34,727 people who were tracked for 7.5 years from the date of their first prescription for anti-anxiety medicine or sleeping pills. The study found benzodiazepines, including diazepam and tamazepam, were the most commonly prescribed drug class. Many patients received more than one drug over the course of the study, and 5 percent were recipients of drugs from all three groups.

Researchers did conclude that there could be other factors influencing the mortality rate, such as age, smoking and alcohol use. The researchers also took into account sleep and anxiety disorders, as well as other psychiatric illnesses in all participants.