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Mental health patients denied medication.

Patients with insomnia who are diagnosed with accompanying mental health ailments often are not prescribed medication that will help them sleep--which then could make related anxiety or depression worse, suggests research from Ohio State University, Columbus.

Scientists examining treatment patterns for insomniacs say that their findings suggest that many doctors appear to be reluctant to prescribe sleep aids, even those that pose no risk of dependence, if patients also have depression, anxiety, or mood disorders. An exception is psychiatrists, who were found to be twice as likely as primary care physicians to prescribe medication for insomnia.

"Insomnia can cause you to have anxiety and depression, and depression and anxiety can cause you to have insomnia. It's a chicken-and-egg type of story, but research has shown that, if one of the conditions is left untreated, it can exacerbate the other condition," explains senior study author Rajesh Balkrishnan, professor of pharmacy. "What this calls for are specific guidelines related to the treatment of insomnia that take into consideration these different types of patients, because insomnia has become such a big public health problem."

An estimated 20% of Americans have occasional sleep problems, with about 10% suffering from chronic insomnia. According to the analysis, an estimated 6,500,000 Americans who saw a doctor for insomnia also were diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

Balkrishnan acknowledges concerns that physicians might have about prescribing certain medications that can cause dependence, especially to patients with mental health disorders. Older sleep aids, a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, are muscle relaxants with addictive properties and high potential for abuse. However, since the early 1990s, a new class of drugs for insomnia called nonbenzodiazepines has been on the market. They are effective sleep aids that do not carry the risk of addiction and, for that reason, patients should have ready access to these medications.
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Title Annotation:Insomnia
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2008
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