February 28, 2012 — A new study warns that adults who use hypnotic drugs, like Ambien (zolpidem), Restoril (temazepam), Lunesta (eszopiclone), Sonata (zaleplon), barbiturates, and even sedative antihistamines to help them sleep have a greater than 3-fold increased risk for early death. The large study was a matched cohort survival analysis.
“The take-home from the article is that the risks associated with hypnotics are very high, and certainly these possible risks outweigh any benefits of hypnotics,” first author Daniel F. Kripke, MD, co-director of research at the Scripps Clinic Viterbi Family Sleep Center in La Jolla, California, told Medscape Medical News.
“Our study is the 19th epidemiological study showing that hypnotics are significantly associated with excess mortality,” Dr. Kripke added, noting it is also the first to specify the drugs and the first to show dose-response. “Even considering that the epidemiologic studies show association and do not prove causality, the risks look much larger than the benefits,” Dr. Kripke added.
Their analysis also showed a 35% overall increased risk for cancer in hypnotics users. “The risks of hypnotics are similar to the risks of cigarettes,” Dr. Kripke said.
The associations were evident in every age but were greatest among those aged 18 to 55 years, the investigators note. “Rough order-of-magnitude estimates…suggest that in 2010, hypnotics may have been associated with 320,000 to 507,000 excess deaths in the USA alone,” they report.
“Risks Outweigh Any Benefits”
In 2010, an estimated 6% to 10% of adults in the United States took a hypnotic drug to help them sleep, with the percentages probably higher in Europe, Dr. Kripke and colleagues note in their report.
Data for their analysis were derived from the electronic medical records of the Geisinger Health System, the largest rural integrated health system in the United States, serving a 41-county area of Pennsylvania with roughly 2.5 million people.
Study participants included 10,529 adults (mean age, 54 years) who received hypnotic prescriptions and 23,676 matched controls with no hypnotic prescriptions, followed for an average of 2.5 years between 2002 and 2007.
“As predicted,” report the researchers, patients prescribed any hypnotic, even fewer than 18 pills per year, were significantly more likely to die during follow-up compared with those prescribed no hypnotics. A dose-response effect was evident, and the findings “were robust with adjustment for multiple potential confounders and consistent using multiple strategies to address confounding by health status,” they report.
The study results show that there were modestly increased statistically significant cancer risks for those prescribed any hypnotic compared to non-users, with the middle and highest categories showing a 20-35% increased risk of developing cancer respectively. The association with Ambien was in the highest category.
The new report is published February 28 in BMJ Open.
As usual there are natural alternatives to the hypnotic prescription sleeping pills that you can take to restore a healthy neurohormone balance so that you can get a good night’s sleep and avoid the serious risks associated with these drugs.
To get a good night’s sleep you need to have adequate levels of Progesterone, Serotonin, Melatonin, and GABA in your nervous system. If you suffer from insomnia or are taking any of these drugs, please call Dr. Hansen to schedule an appointment so that you can find out what is out of balance and then get the natural prescription to provide the natural building blocks necessary to replenish nervous sytem.