A study on older people taking pills for anxiety and sleeping problems lead the researchers to conclude that the pills may have increase the risk of developing dementia. Benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium are used widely to treat insomnia, agitation and anxiety. These are some indicators of early developments of Alzheimer’s. Researchers are concerned that the use of benzodiazepines may trigger the onset of dementia.
To test the hypothesis, a French-Canadian team of researchers compared data from 1.796 older adult using benzodiazepines from the Canadian province of Quebec with data from 7.184 healthy counterparts. Low-dose and infrequent medication proved not to be a reason of concern regarding the patients, who are all over 66. Their risks of developing dementia in the next five years were minimal. However, in the cases of patients taking the pills whether for longer periods, in higher doses, or taking long-acting benzodiazepines frequently, have a much higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
There are two types of benzodiazepines taken into account in the study. One consisted of short-acting anti-anxiety products (Xanax, Ativan, Seresta and Valium). The other was formed out of longer-lasting medication used to treat insomnia (Klonopin, Dalmane, Versed, Mogadon, Restoril, Halcion).
After five years, researchers analyzed the results, which clearly showed an increased risk of developing dementia. In the cases of patients taking the regular doses for three to six months during the research period faced a 32 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Dramatically, those taking the medication for longer than six months, witnessed an 82 percent increase of the risk to develop Alzheimer’s, compared to those who did not take medication at all.
“In view of the evidence, it is now crucial to encourage physicians to carefully balance the risks and benefits when initiating or renewing a treatment with benzodiazepines and related products in older patients,” the authors wrote.
Previously, the use of benzodiazepines was associated with risks of memory problems and overall mental performances in humans, as well as in animals. Three months is the maximum recommended period for treatments with benzodiazepines and this research underscores the importance of managing drug consumption, especially in the cases of mental problems. Unfortunately, a major number of patients continue taking the pills long after the doctor ended their treatment. Moreover, overdoses and combinations between benzodiazepines and alcohol have turned out to be fatal in many cases.