Anxiety treatment drugs and sleeping pills increase death risk

I’m a firm believer in self-reliance. The drug crutch for facing life’s little bumps and dips is seldom, if ever, a fully adequate measure. One of the inconveniences associated with using this crutch for any significant length of time is the escalated possibility of an early death. An article submitted by a registered nurse in EmaxHealth details a study in which people on such drugs were found to have died more often within the 12 year period the study encompassed than other people in the study. This article bears the heading Insomnia and Anxiety Medications Linked to Increased Mortality.

The findings come from a study that followed 14,000 Canadians in the Statistics Canada’s National Population Health Survey from 1994 and 2007. During the survey, participants who used drugs for insomnia or anxiety were noted to have a thirty-six percent higher chance of dying after adjusting for other personal factors, including depression, tobacco and alcohol use, other health issues and activity levels.

I imagine if you have a 36% increased chance of dying within a 12 year period, that percentage is not going down over time, if anything, it’s likely to go up. This is to say that if the study had gone on longer, say for 24 years, this increased mortality in all likelihood would have been much higher.

The author gives some reasons for this increased mortality.

Medicines used for insomnia decrease reaction time and alertness and lead to lack of coordination, potentially leading to falls and other mishaps. Impaired judgment could also increase the chances of suicide among depressed patients.

Then there is the possibility of respiratory failure.

Geneviève Belleville, a professor at Université Laval’s School of Psychology where the study was conducted says, “These medications aren’t candy, and taking them is far from harmless.” Another theory is that insomnia drugs and anxiolytics lead to respiratory depression, aggravating existing breathing problems that can lead to death.

Professor Belleville suggests combining short term drug therapy with psychological treatment as a promising strategy for dealing with this dilemma. My worry is that doctors, with real patients of flesh and blood, reading these studies, will tend to ignore such suggestions. Conflicts of interest and negative prognoses tend to go hand in hand with the medical model of psychiatry that relies so heavily on such drugs.

People on the receiving end of psychiatric services need to educate themselves on these matters when, as you can see, doing so is so often a matter of life and death.