Many people turn to medications each year to find relief for their depression or anxiety issues. However, a new study published in the online journal BMJ has found that some of those medications may be tied to a higher risk of death.
The study, which was published in March, followed 34,727 people who took the anti-anxiety medications Valium or Xanax or the sleeping aids Ambien, Sonata or Lunesta to discover what long-term effects the medications might have. After adjusting for age, the use of other medications, and other lifestyle factors such as smoking or alcohol use, the researchers found that those taking Valium or Xanax had more than double the risk of death than those who did not take the drugs. The study included 69,418 control subjects who did not take these anti-anxiety medications or sleeping aids.
Researchers also tried to account for sleep disorders, anxiety disorders and other psychiatric illnesses when determining the risk of death. However, study authors noted that it was not possible to account for all variables. Therefore, while the data pointed to an increased risk of death from these drugs, the results are not conclusive.
The lead author encouraged patients to spend as little time on these medications as possible.
Ultimately, if you suffer from a sleep or anxiety disorder, it is important for you to work with a doctor and a psychologist to assess your symptoms and to determine the right treatment plan. The risks presented by these drugs may be outweighed by their benefits. The only way to know for certain is to work with a qualified healthcare professional and to explore the full range of treatment options. Your doctor may have other possibilities for medication, and your psychologist may be able to work with you through talk therapy or behavioral therapy to minimize symptoms.
Check out our additional resource section for additional information on anxiety medications and psychological questions.