According to a study issued this week, long-term use of anti-anxiety and insomnia drugs may dramatically increase the odds of developing Alzheimer’s.
Regular use of benzodiazepines — which include medications such as Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), Xanax (alprazolam) and Klonopin (clonazepam) — is associated with as much as a 51 percent increased risk for Alzheimer’s among people who use the drugs for three months or more. For the study, published in BMJ-British Medical Journal, researchers looked at data from the Quebec health insurance program database. They tracked elderly people living in Quebec, Canada who were prescribed benzodiazepines (sometimes called ‘benzos’). The researchers analyzed six years of data, and noted 1,796 cases of Alzheimer’s disease. The study found that beyond three months on the drug, the longer people took it, the higher their risk for dementia. Additionally, the study indicated that long-acting or extended release forms of the drugs were associated with higher risk for Alzheimer’s than shorter acting forms of the same medication.
A study published in 2012 found a similar but less dramatic link between this class of drugs and the incidence of dementia.