Sleeping pills…commonly prescribed medications that can cause unexpected problems

I’m republishing this post that links to an article on some of the documented dangers of benzodiazepines and other closely related hypnotics.  “Sleeping pills” is really a bit of a euphemism. They are tranquilizers, anxiolytics and hypnotics. These drugs are still prescribed far too often for long-term use and the damage they cause is often denied outright by the prescribing MDs. This post is so that you might know the possible risks of a very commonly prescribed class of drugs.

Jerry Siegel, Ph.D.: Are Sleeping Pills Good For You?

This is about benzos and the Z-drugs (Ambien, Lunesta, Zoplicone) that are related to benzos. Yeah, they’re all fraught with problems.

Most sleeping pills are taken to relieve insomnia. According to several epidemiological studies, people with insomnia either do not have any marked shortening of lifespan relative to those reporting normal sleep or actually have a somewhat increased lifespan (see my prior blog  “How Much Sleep Do We Actually Need”). 

Many cases of insomnia are linked to depression. However, studies in which insomnia subjects were randomly assigned to either placebo or benzodiazepine sleeping pills, reported that the rate of depression was doubled in those who took sleeping pills (6).

Suicide rates are increased in those who had taken hypnotic mediations (7).

Benzodiazepines were reported to have caused 3.8 percent of all deaths by drug overdose (8).

Other troubling consequences of sleeping pill use are memory problems, falls, aggressiveness, and confusion. Sleepwalking, sleep eating and driving while not fully awake are common side effects (9, 10).

Those taking sleeping pills can be expected to feel a short term relief from insomnia when they first begin taking the pills. However, short term usage frequently leads to chronic usage and dependence (11). — 

The most troubling consequence of chronic sleeping pill is an apparent reduction in lifespan in chronic sleeping pills users relative to those reporting equivalent insomnia who did not take sleeping pills. 

Chronic sleeping pill use might be roughly comparable to cigarette smoking in its effect on lifespan. The life shortening effect of chronic sleeping pill usage has now been reported in at least 12 studies published in respected peer reviewed publications. Two studies have reported no effect of hypnotic usage on lifespan. No study has reported any lifespan or overall health benefit of chronic sleeping pill usage, which is striking considering that so much of the research on sleeping pills is funded by the drug companies producing them…

…How could these drugs cause the adverse effects that have been reported? In addition to their presence on a wide variety of brain cells controlling bodily systems, benzodiazepine receptors also exist in large numbers in bodily organs including the heart (12, 13), gall bladder, urinary bladder (14), thyroid, liver (15), lung, stomach (16, 17), testes (17), pancreas (16) and kidneys (16, 18) and are activated by many commonly used sleeping pills (19, 20). Benzodiazepine receptors are present on red blood cells, on tumors, as well as on cells of the immune system (5, 21-24). Increased rates of infection have been reported with the use of hypnotics (25). 

And because this too is so important:

…Insomnia can be a devastating problem. In those cases where depression, chronic anxiety, pain or other medical problems cause insomnia, these underlying problems need to be treated rather than just addressing the sleep symptoms resulting from these problems. (read the rest here)

More:

● Benzodiazepines, Sleeping Pills and Tranquilizers: what happens to the brain on drugs?

● Sleeping pills…commonly prescribed medications that can cause unexpected problems

● Are sleeping pills addictive?

● Sleeping Pills (benzos and Z-drugs) shorten life-span and a list of other adverse effects

Benzodiazepines have also been shown to cause brain damage.

Go here for a collection of links on benzodiazepines use and withdrawal. The links include documentation on the damage this class of drugs cause as well as the safest ways to get off of them that we might  heal. Withdrawal from this class of drug can be highly problematic so please do not proceed without learning about how to best do it. MDs often have no experience at all with withdrawing people safely.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters