Posted on Mar 19, 2012, 6 a.m.
Contributing as many as 500,000 excess deaths in the US in 2010, heavy users are not the only ones at risk.
With as many as 10% of American adults taking a sleeping pill in 2010, Scripps Health (California, USA) researchers investigated the link with increased risk of death. Robert D. Langer and colleagues followed 10,000 sleeping pill users and 23,500 non-users in Pennsylvania, for a four-year period. Whereas about 1% of non-users died during that time, 6% of sleeping pill users died. Heavy users were not the only ones at risk: even people who took fewer than 2 pills a month were three-times more likely to die, as compared to non-users. The team’s analysis considered both users' and non-users' age, race, body mass index, and reported alcohol and tobacco use to determine if any other conditions were contributing to the mortality rates. The team also examined death rates in users and non-users who had a secondary condition, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, or asthma. No matter how the data was sorted, sleeping pill users had higher death rates. Positing that sleeping pill users can wake up in a "hangover" state, where they are at a higher risk for falls or car accidents, and the risk of overdose and drug interaction-related deaths are more likely, the study authors report that: “[sleeping pills] associated with greater than threefold increased hazards of death even when prescribed [at fewer than] 18 pills/year.”
Kripke DF, Langer RD, Kline LE. “Hypnotics' association with mortality or cancer: a matched cohort study.” BMJ Open. 2012 Feb 27;2(1):e000850.