A provocative new study finds that people who take prescription sleeping pills -- even once in a while -- have a higher death risk than non-users.
The top third of sleeping-pill users had a 5.3-fold higher death risk. They also had a 35% higher risk of cancer, the study found.
"We are not certain. But it looks like sleeping pills could be as risky as smoking cigarettes. It looks much more dangerous to take these pills than to treat insomnia another way," study leader Daniel F. Kripke, MD, tells WebMD.
The sleeping pills in question are known as hypnotics. They include newer drugs such as zolpidem (the best known brand name is Ambien) as well as older drugs such as temazepam (the best known brand name is Restoril).
Hypnotic sleeping pills actually cause a person to fall asleep. This sets them apart from other sleeping aids, such as the supplement melatonin, which promote sleep through relaxation.
Other sleep drugs described as hypnotics by Kripke and colleagues include eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), triazolam (Halcion), flurazepam (Dalmane), barbiturates, and older antihistamines such as diphenhydramine. Read the entire article.
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