Researchers at Warwick Medical School in the United Kingdom led a study assessing rates of mortality associated with antianxiety and sleeping medication. The study compared 37,727 patients who had a prescription for anxiolytic or hypnotic drugs with 69,418 patients with no prescription for such medications. Patients were tracked for an average of 7.6 years.
The results, published in the British Medical Journal, showed that compared with control subjects, patients with prescriptions for antianxiety and sleeping medications were twice as likely to die prematurely.
Daniel Buysse, M.D., a sleeping disorder expert and professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told Psychiatric News that though hypnotic drugs have been found to be “statistically associated with increased mortality risk, . . . retrospective cohort studies cannot completely control for potential confounds, such as severity of illness and multiple comorbidities.” Buysee emphasized that psychiatrists, along with their patients, should carefully consider the pros and cons before prescribing such medications and should monitor side effects regularly once the patient begins taking the medication. ■