Study: Sleeping Pills Hasten Death and Raise Cancer Risk
While taking sleeping pills may seem like a harmless habit, a startling new study suggests these medications are quite dangerous. In the research published in BMJ Open, investigators found the drugs had such a pronounced detrimental effect on health that they caused an increased risk of cancer and markedly higher risk of premature death.
Although you would expect long-term use of high doses to result in a health risk, the alarming results indicate that those who took as few as one to 18 pills in a year had a three and a half times higher risk of death than those who did not take these medications. For patients who took more than 132 pills a year, the risk of death was five times higher than those who took no sleep aids.
Furthermore, those who were the most frequent users of prescription sleep medications had a 35 percent greater likelihood of being diagnosed with cancer during the study period. Patients taking the highest doses of sleep aids accounted for a whopping 93 percent of prescriptions in the investigation.
The culprits include several classes of drugs used to relieve insomnia. One class is medications known as benzodiazepines, such as temazepam and diazepam, which have long been used for sleep maladies. But the classes also include newer sedative hypnotics like zolpidem, zopiclone and zaleplon. The other classes involved are barbiturates and sedative antihistamines. These medications are enormously popular, being used by millions of people around the world. The authors estimate that in the year 2010, approximately 320,000 to 507,000 deaths may have been linked to prescription sleep medications.
The investigation’s author, Daniel Kripke, provides postulations on the cause of the findings. He explains that sleep aids play a common role in fatal medication overdoses, but such drugs also raise the risk for many other illnesses, The Los Angeles Times states. Kripke says the dulled alertness produced by these drugs may lead to accidents and injuries, while the gastroesophageal regurgitation commonly associated with them could raise risks of infection and cancer. He notes that other research has associated sleep aids with depression and sleep apnea, which may lead to higher rates of suicide, diabetes and heart disease.
Because the study revealed merely a link between sleeping pills and death risk rather than a cause-and-effect relationship, many experts are recommending caution in interpreting the findings. Victor Fornari, a psychiatrist at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., urges patients who take these drugs not to panic. He opines that the cause for the increased deaths may stem from the reasons people take the medications rather than from the medications themselves, elaborating that insomnia may be the first manifestation of a medical illness, HealthDay notes.
Conversely, despite the lack of conclusive proof, the author of the research, as well as some other members of the medical community are not reticent in characterizing the results as being gravely serious.
- Kripke, relays to HealthDay that sleeping aides are linked to a shocking increase in deaths and horrible rise in cancer risk.
- Trish Grooves, editor in child of the journal in which the study appears, states that although the authors were unable to establish proof that sleeping pills cause premature death, the results raise important concerns, The Nation records.
- Bryan Bruno, a psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, adds his voice to those disturbed by the study’s findings, saying that sleeping pills can be dangerous and are best used only on a temporary basis.
British experts caution patients not to stop taking these medications without consulting their doctors first. Some of these drugs can cause very serious medical events if you suddenly discontinue them. Those who are concerned should discuss with their physician how to wean themselves off of these sleep aids gradually.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.