Sleeping pills triple risk of death – even if you take fewer than 18 a year

Sleeping drugs triple your risk of dying – even if you take fewer than 18 pills a year.  Doctors are ignoring these alarming risks, and are prescribing hypnotics to more than 10 per cent of the adult population, a new study reveals.

The risk of death rises to five times for patients taking more than 132 sleeping pills a year, or around one every two to three days.  And the heaviest users were also more likely to develop cancer, say researchers from the Scripps Clinic Viterbi Family Sleeping Center.

They compared 10,529 patients taking a hypnotic drug for poor sleeping – including zolpidem, temazepam and other benzodiazepines – and compared their mortality levels with 23,676 people who weren’t taking the drugs.

Those taking the fewest drugs – up to 18 a year – were 3.6 times more likely to die, and the risk rose to 4.43 and 5.32 times in those taking up to 132 pills and more than 132 pills a year.

Despite these enormous risks, hypnotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs in the West, with at least 10 per cent of adults taking them regularly. (Source: British Medical Journal, 2012; 2: e000850)


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