It’s well understood within the medical community that anti-anxiety drugs and sleeping pills carry the hefty risks of addiction, overdose, serious accidents, and cognitive impairment. Now, a British study published in the BMJ has found that over the course of nearly 8 years, death rates more than doubled in people who were taking these prescription medications.
The researchers at Warwick Medical School tracked almost 35,000 healthy adults who had recently started taking sleeping pills or anti-anxiety medications. In the follow-up, those patients who were taking drugs like Ambien, Valium, and Xanax were 3.3 times more likely to have died. The greatest risks came with the use of benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs).
The researchers controlled for underlying medical conditions that could also increase the risk of death, such as, age, substance use and abuse, and even socioeconomic status. Aside from the anxiety and sleep problems that led to the prescription of these drugs, the patients tracked in the study were healthy.
Professor of Psychiatry and study co-author Scott Weich pointed out that we cannot say for certain that the drugs directly caused the deaths, but that the results of the study underscore the message that benzodiazepines and sleeping pills are not permanent solutions for anxiety and sleeping problems.
“That’s not to say that they cannot be effective,” Weich said. “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.”
In the United States alone, the number of people who suffer from anxiety is creeping up toward 20% of the population, it’s an important message to get out there. The appeal of turning to a pill is certainly understandable, but it’s just not a safe option for the long-term management of sleep and anxiety issues.
Read more about alternative and natural treatments for anxiety: