- Long term use of benzodiazepines is associated with an increased incidence of dementia and cognitive impairment.
- A case-control study of older Quebec residents has found that use of benzodiazepines daily for more than three months is associated with increased incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, even after adjusting for anxiety, depression and insomnia.
- The link became stronger as exposure to benzodiazepines increased, with the highest incidence occurring in those who took benzodiazepines for more than six months.
- To date, research demonstrates a link, but cannot prove cause or effect.
- It remains unclear whether benzodiazepines increase the risk of dementia or are prescribed to combat pre-clinical symptoms.
There are many drugs (statins here and benzodiazepines here) linking side effects to diminished cognitive ability and dementia. Most of us are familiar with statin use for managing high cholesterol although clear direction regarding which populations and at what intensity continue to evolve. Benzodiazepines are prescribed for anxiety, nervousness, panic disorders, sleeplessness, a lot of the symptoms you might expect to see when managing elderly patients where non-pharmacologic treatment options are not prioritized. Over medicalization of the elderly highlights the importance of evaluating side effect profiles that often contribute to risk and symptom development in the aging population.
Health News and Evidence
By 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice their number in 2000. People 65+ represented 12.4% of the population in the year 2000 but are expected to grow to be 19% of the population by 2030. The shifting demographic highlights why there is an unprecedented societal concern regarding the facilitation of treatments for dementia. In spite of the firehose of news regarding advances in research our knowledge regarding the etiology of Alzheimer's Disease specifically as well as the other subtypes of dementia remain fairly limited. Underlying pathologies of dementia seem to overlap and have been studied based on genetic associations. The rush to find the next blockbuster drug without adequate attention or research to study potential gene and environment interactions that may influence their development is noticeably short sighted.
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