Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Despite alternatives, addictive drugs most often prescribed for sleep problems

01.06.2005


Nearly one out of two visits to a doctor’s office for help with a sleep disorder result in the prescription of potentially addictive medications, a new study reports.

Office visits by older patients and those with publicly funded health insurance plans were nearly twice as likely to result in the prescription of these kinds of medications.

The drugs, called benzodiazepines, are often a cheaper alternative to some newer types of medicines that don’t have the same potentially addictive side effects, said Rajesh Balkrishnan, the study’s lead author and the Merrell Dow professor of pharmacy at Ohio State University . “Some of the most vulnerable populations in the United States are at greater risk of receiving prescription sleep medication with a high abuse potential,” he said.



The study, which appears in the current issue of the journal Sleep, includes data from 94.6 million office visits in the United States over a six-year period. Patients included in the data set sought help for sleep-related difficulties in outpatient physician offices. Balkrishnan and his colleagues gathered six years of outpatient office visit data – from 1996 to 2001 – from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS). The NAMCS includes information on patient demographics, the reason for a visit, a patient’s diagnosis, the medication prescribed and the therapeutic and preventive services recommended during that visit. The majority of patients went to family practice physicians, internal medicine providers or psychiatrists. Using information from the NAMCS, the researchers analyzed the treatment patterns of patients 18 and older who reported sleep problems.

Nearly two-thirds of those visits resulted in medication prescriptions for a person’s sleep difficulties, and three-quarters of those prescriptions were for a benzodiazepine. (Five of the 13 kinds of benzodiazepines on the market in the United States are indicated for treating insomnia.) The other 25 percent of patient visits for sleep disorders ended with prescriptions for non-benzodiazepine medications.

Benzodiazepines were widely prescribed for anxiety and other stress-related problems in the 1960s and 1970s. These drugs, which have a calming effect on the nervous system, are still prescribed as muscle relaxants and tranquilizers. (Valium is one example of a benzodiazepine, although it is not recommended for treating insomnia in the United States.) “Benzodiazepines are usually effective for just a few weeks when used to treat insomnia. But addiction can develop relatively quickly”, Balkrishnan said. “A person can develop a strong psychological and physical dependence on these drugs in a short time, and experience severe withdrawal-like symptoms once he stops taking the medication,” he said.

Office visits by people 50 and older were about 5 times as likely to result in a drug treatment for sleep problems as were visits by 18- to 34-year-olds. And people 65 and older were twice as likely as the 18- to 34-year-olds to receive prescriptions for benzodiazepines. Visits by patients with Medicare or Medicaid – the federally subsidized health insurance plans – were also twice as likely to result in benzodiazepine prescriptions as visits by patients with private health insurance.

Psychiatrists were four times as likely to prescribe newer non-benzodiazepine drugs during patient visits compared to family practice and internal medicine physicians. “Psychiatrists may be more informed than other kinds of doctors about newer, non-benzodiazepine drugs,” Balkrishnan said. “Or psychiatrists may see patients with more complex problems in whom other therapies such as over-the-counter medications have failed. “Overall, the study suggests that some physicians do consider other options before jumping to prescribe a drug to treat sleep problems,” he said.

But many health care providers don’t take public health insurance, Balkrishnan said. This means that these patients, regardless of their age, are more likely to receive cheaper benzodiazepines as treatments for their sleep problems.

And elderly people, 65 and older, with private health insurance were more likely to receive benzodiazepines. “We need to understand the reasons for these disparities in order to stop this trend,” Balkrishnan said. “There needs to be a move toward a more uniform prescription system – at least for certain types of medications. “One possibility is to create guidelines that say let’s reserve the most addictive benzodiazepines for patients for whom every other kind of treatment has been unsuccessful.”

While the study did not look at the types of non-drug treatments prescribed to treat sleep disorders, such as behavioral therapy, the researchers found that nearly half (48 percent) of patient visits resulted in a drug prescription, while 14 percent of the office visits resulted in a combined prescription of medication and behavioral therapy. Just five percent of patient visits resulted in prescribed behavioral therapy only.

The study was funded by a grant from Takeda Pharmaceuticals of North America, Inc., Lincolnshire, Ill. The study does not discuss any specific products of the sponsor company.

Rajesh Balkrishnan | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>