Monday, April 7, 2014

Anxiolytic and Hypnotic Medications Associated With Increased Mortality Risk, Study Finds

In a study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers at Warwick Medical School in the United Kingdom led a study assessing rates of mortality associated with antianxiety and sleeping medications. 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 showed that "there was an overall statistically significant doubling of the hazard of death (hazard ratio 2.08) after adjusting for a wide range of potential confounders, including physical and psychiatric comorbidities, sleep disorders, and other drugs."

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 are “are efficacious for the treatment of insomnia...they can have short-term and possible long-term side effects. These drugs are statistically associated with increased mortality risk, but 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.

To read about diagnosis and treatment of anxiety and sleep disorders, see the Psychiatric News articles, "DSM-5 Sleep-Wake Disorders Section Targets Comorbidity" and "DSM-5 Updates Depressive, Anxiety, and OCD Criteria."

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