Doctors Warn of Addiction Risk with Sleep Medications
Doctors are raising concerns about the addictive nature of sleep medications, particularly benzodiazepines, commonly prescribed to patients with sleeping problems. According to the Stichting Farmaceutische Kengetallen (SFK) of the Netherlands, there has been a significant increase in the number of medication users, reaching 1,326,000 last year.
Previously, the number of users had been steadily declining, but since 2020, the situation has worsened. Medical professionals are urging caution when prescribing these medications, advising that they should only be used for short-term sleep problems. The prolonged use of such medications can lead to dependency.
Despite expert advice, a concerning trend persists, with general practitioners still prescribing medications to about two-thirds of patients experiencing sleep problems for the first time. Professor Annemieke van Straten, a clinical psychologist at VU Amsterdam, highlights the lack of suitable alternatives for general practitioners and the tendency for patients to seek pills as a quick fix. However, the repetitive use of sleep medications increases the risk of addiction.
As a consequence, an increasing number of patients are seeking help from addiction doctors to overcome their dependence on these sleeping aids. The National Alcohol and Drug Information System (LADIS) reports that over a thousand individuals have undergone therapy in recent years due to their inability to stop taking the medication. The withdrawal symptoms include difficulty falling back asleep and heightened irritability.
Concerns arise as patients become anxious about the potential emergence of new sleep problems, which can lead to relapse. Experts emphasize the importance of examining the underlying causes of sleep issues, suggesting that behavioral therapy yields positive results. However, this form of treatment is time-consuming and expensive, presenting challenges for patients.
The Dutch Association for Sleep Medicine (SVNL) acknowledges that accessing behavioral therapy can be challenging, as healthcare providers may not always be aware of its availability. Additionally, the therapy is offered on a limited basis, leaving patients with little choice. To address these issues, the SVNL is working on a plan to make sleep problem treatment more accessible for everyone. President Angelique Pijpers highlights the significance of quality sleep as a pillar of overall health, calling for increased attention to be given to this aspect of well-being.
In conclusion, the escalating number of addiction cases resulting from prolonged use of sleep medications has raised concerns among doctors. With experts highlighting the need for caution and alternative treatment options, medical professionals and organizations are working towards providing more accessible solutions for individuals struggling with sleep problems.
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