Benzodiazepines Linked to Greater Risk of Alzheimer’s
According to a recent study conducted by the University of Eastern Finland, the use of benzodiazepine and related Z-class drugs is associated with a moderately-elevated risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly, this risk seems to be across-the-board or both types of drugs, regardless of an individual medication’s half-life.
The study looked at all new Alzheimer’s diagnoses between 2005 and 2011, nearly 71,000 patients. Among these, medication use was reviewed as far back as 1995.
This information supports earlier research. In 2014, the British Medical Journal published work by scientists at the University of Bordeaux suggesting that using benzodiazepines for three months or longer led to an increased risk of brain disease.
Elderly patients given “BZDs” for over three months had a 51% greater likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
This is significant, because approximately 13.5 million Americans use BZDs such as Xanax, Klonopin, Valium. And to give that number even more perspective, in 1996, there were only about 1 million prescriptions dispensed.
Yet Another Adverse Effect
Although “benzo” tranquilizers are frequently prescribed for sleep problems, their effectiveness diminishes rapidly. A tolerance can develop in a matter of months or even weeks. Despite this, greater than 1 out of 7 patients take the medication for a year or longer.
In addition, benzos are also associated with a number or adverse effects and events:
- Falls—Use is associated with a 40% increase in the risk of falls among senior patients
- Depression—Linked to treatment-resistant depression
- Cognitive Impairment— Persistent impairments have been observed among long-term users (5+ years)
- Cancer – especially of the bladder, bowel, brain, breast, and lung
- Dependence – By some estimates, up to half of users become dependent. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can be EXTREMELY dangerous, and even fatal.
- Abuse –Even using BZDs “as needed” promotes misuse.
- Addiction – Every year, there are 200,000 new benzodiazepine abusers.
- Overdose –One-third of all prescription overdose deaths involve benzos.
What Does All of This Mean?
While there is a place for benzodiazepine/Z-class medications, anyone taking these needs to be fully aware of the many recognized risks. These should be discussed with your healthcare provider before initiating use.
But these risks are magnified in people who are genetically or environmentally vulnerable to substance abuse. This particularly includes people who are in recovery from addiction, because anxiety and insomnia are common complaints during early recovery.
If you or someone you care about has a developed a dependence on or addiction to ANY prescription medication, Lasting Recovery outpatient drug rehab in San Diego can be the resource you need to safely regain your sobriety and balance.
Lasting Recovery – “Where Wellness Begins…”