Sleeping pills used by millions of Britons may increase the risk of early death more than five-fold, warn researchers. The higher the dose, the greater the risk. Those on higher doses also have an increased risk of cancer.
But a study suggests even patients taking fewer than 18 pills a year are more likely to die prematurely than those not on medication. The findings come from U.S. research, but most of the drugs involved are commonly prescribed in Britain. They include benzodiazepines such as temazepam and diazepam, newer sedative hypnotics zolpidem, zopiclone and zaleplon, and barbiturates and sedative antihistamines.
But the study, conducted by researchers at the Jackson Hole Centre for Preventive Medicine in Wyoming and the Scripps Clinic Viterbi Family Sleep Centre in California, found the risk was greater at higher doses. Those taking 18 to 132 pills a year had a 4.4 times higher risk of dying, while those on more than 132 pills a year were 5.3 times more likely to die.
The researchers concluded non-drug treatments such as cognitive behaviour therapy may be more successful and NHS guidance backing ‘even short-term use of hypnotics’ should be reconsidered.
The journal’s editor-in-chief Dr Trish Groves added: ‘Although the authors have not been able to prove that sleeping pills cause premature death… these findings raise important concerns.’
Image: Top News