When you’re feeling anxious or “stressed out”, do you reach for a pill to relieve the symptoms? Although prescription drugs offer some temporary relief, medications to treat anxiety and insomnia can have serious side effects. Now, there’s another good reason not to take drugs to ease insomnia and anxiety.
Medications to Treat Anxiety and Insomnia: Why You Shouldn’t Take Them
According to a new study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, medications to treat anxiety and insomnia increase the risk of dying prematurely. Researchers discovered this after analyzing data on over 14,000 Canadian adults of all ages over a twelve year period. They came to the surprising conclusion that taking medications to treat insomnia or anxiety increased the risk of death by 36%.
It’s tempting to think that some other factor accounts for the higher death rate, especially since people taking medications to treat anxiety or insomnia may not be completely healthy, but researchers controlled for factors such as overall health, alcohol use, smoking history, diet, and exercise history. The death rate still remained higher.
Why Do Insomnia and Anxiety Medications Increase Mortality Rate?
Researchers speculate that the calming effects of these medications slow down reaction time and increase the risk of accidents and serious injuries. They also reduce breathing rates, which could aggravate the symptoms of conditions such as sleep apnea or certain lung diseases. When anxiety or sleep medications are mixed with alcohol or other drugs, as some people do, these risks are magnified.
Is It Safe to Take Medications to Treat Anxiety or Insomnia?
These drugs aren’t a “quick-fix” for stress and insomnia. Medications should be used as a last resort after all other forms of therapy have been exhausted, and, even in these cases, they should only be used short-term.
There are safer approaches for dealing with insomnia and anxiety. Thirty minutes of daily exercise helps to lower stress levels by boosting “feel-good” hormones called endorphins. Other stress management techniques that work for some people are meditation, yoga, counseling, and talk therapy.
Diet plays a role too. It’s important to eliminate caffeine and processed foods, and reduce alcohol consumption if you’re anxious or can’t sleep. Simple things such as listening to new-age music, keeping a journal, and taking a hot bath helps to soothe frazzled nerves.
The bottom line? Don’t use medications to treat anxiety and insomnia unless all else has failed – and then use them only under a doctor’s care while exploring other alternatives. They’re not a good long-term solution.
Eurekalert.org. “Use of medication for insomnia or anxiety increases mortality risk by 36 percent”