University of Manitoba College of Pharmacy assistant professor Christine Leong quoted a recent study when she said 1 in 10 Canadians takes some sort of sedative.

Beyond that statistic, Leong tells CTV News there are people who take sedatives, like benzodiazepines that are initially given for short term anxiety or insomnia, for much longer than first intended.

"Most guidelines recommend only using these medications for weeks, not years," she said.

The main reason why people stay on them, she explained, is because they are avoiding withdrawal symptoms.

“Some of the withdrawal effects can be mild, like agitation, it can exacerbate an anxiety. But sometimes if you discontinue too abruptly it can be quite severe. It can actually cause seizures. So it is important to discontinue these medications slowly.”

To help get more insight into why some people stay on these prescriptions and what the barriers are to people getting off them and while staying active in their community, Leong is conducting a multi-approach study.

It will combine statistical research with interviews and suggestions from Manitobans who have lived experience with taking sedatives long-term.

She says where this becomes a bigger problem is in the older adult population because they are more susceptible to side effects.

“Things like balance issues, increased risk of falls and injury, cognitive impairment and also the fact that the older adult population is using multiple medications and there is a higher risk for drug interactions."

Leong is looking for 14 Manitobans who are 18 or older who have either taken medications for anxiety or sleep disorders, or their caretakers to help with her research.

She said that patient engagement group will be a part of the research team and its role will be helping to ensure the study and its outcome are meaningful.

More information is available online.