The study which was published just this July involved looking into the health records of over 1.2 million American patients who have or are undergoing benzodiazepine treatments and more than 1.9 million who did not but were under medical supervision during the period.
“This large population based cohort study suggests either no increase or at most a minor increase in the risk of all cause mortality associated with benzodiazepine initiation,” the researchers stated.
The research team composed of various staffs of the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Department of Medicine of the Harvard Medical School.
Initial findings of the study showed that among the benzodiazepine group, 8,945 fatalities occurred. On the other hand, 5,347 deaths were recorded among the non-users. This led them to believe that patients suffering from anxiety, sleep disorders or mood disorders that were prescribed the drug were 79% more likely to die compared to those who weren’t.
However, after considering other variables, the mortality rate of users was found actually to be 11% lower than non-users. This gave the researchers the assumption that there is no correlation between benzodiazepine use, as prescribed, and death.
Another finding was that users above the age of 65 years showed equally the same mortality rate as individuals in other age groups.
They noted a small increased risk when comparing benzodiazepine users to SSRI users, but pointed out that the reduction in risk with adjusting the figures means that any increase is likely due to residual confounding.
“If a detrimental effect on all-cause mortality exists, it is likely to be much lower than previously stated and to have only modest clinical relevance, given its magnitude from both an absolute and a relative perspective,” the researchers added.
Benzodiazepine, more commonly known as “benzos,” is a group of psychoactive drugs used to treat various mental disorders such as panic disorders, insomnia, seizures, anxiety, and more.
Xanax (alprazolam), which can be bought in bars, is one of the most prescribed benzodiazepines in the market. Many have believed claims that taking it can increase the risk of death among patients; this was due to the various side effects that were associated with the drug.