Anxiety Treatment May Lead to Alzheimer's Later

Extended benzodiazepine use associated with higher risk of Alzheimers disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Anti-anxiety medicines can be helpful treatments for the short term. But new research found that they may also be risky.

A recent study looked at the link between benzodiazepines and Alzheimer's disease.

The study authors found that use of these tranquilizers among older adults was tied to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's. The risk increased for people who had taken them for longer than three months.

"Learn the side effects of medicines you take."

Sophie Billioti de Gage, a PhD student at the University of Bordeaux, wrote the study with colleagues.

Dementia among older adults can make daily tasks difficult, the authors noted. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia.

This study looked at the link between benzodiazepines and Alzheimer's disease. This class of medicines (with brand names like Valium and Xanax) is often used to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia.

The study authors looked at medical records from 1,796 patients with Alzheimer's disease. For comparison, they also gathered data for 7,184 patients without the disease.

The authors followed up with the patients for six years. They looked for a history of benzodiazepine use that started at least five years before an Alzheimer's diagnosis.

They found that 49.8 percent of patients with Alzheimer's and 40 percent of the control group had used the medicines before.

The study authors associated benzodiazepine use with a 51 percent higher risk of Alzheimer's.

The risk was greater among people who took the medicines daily for longer than three months. Risk also increased with benzodiazepines meant to work in the body for a longer time.

The authors of the study said that, while these medicines are "valuable tools for managing anxiety disorders," they should be used for only short times.

The study was published in The BMJ Sept. 9.

The research was funded by INSERM, the University of Bordeaux, the French Ministry of Health and the Funding Agency for Health Research of Quebec. Some of the authors declared ties to pharmaceutical companies and research institutes.

Review Date: 
September 9, 2014
Last Updated:
September 10, 2014