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 Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft

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: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>