Latest News » Study: Anxiety medications may contribute to Alzheimer's disease risk

Study shows association between use of certain anxiety medications and Alzheimer's risk.

A new study shows an association between benzodiazepine use and the development of Alzheimer's disease. French and Canadian researchers detailed these findings in a report titled "Benzodiazepine use and risk of Alzheimer's disease: case-control study," recently published in The BMJ.

Researchers found that participants who had taken benzodiazepines exhibited a possible increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. Benzodiazepines include drugs typically used to treat anxiety, such as diazepam, lorazepam and alprazolam. According to HealthDay News, these drugs are commonly taken by older adults to help with insomnia and anxiety. 

The researchers looked at participants' prescription records and found that there was a 51 percent greater likelihood that those who had been prescribed benzodiazepines would develop Alzheimer's after taking the medications for longer than three months. That chance was almost doubled for those who took the drugs for longer than a six-month period. The results were compared against participants who had never taken these types of drugs.

Although the drugs are recommended for short-term use, some individuals may take them over the long term, meaning for more than three months. As the article details, other studies have shown that longer-term use of these types of drugs could increase Alzheimer's risk, through it has not been definitively proven as a cause.  

"There is absolutely no doubt these drugs have dangerous side effects," Dr. Gisele Wolf-Klein, a geriatrics specialist not involved in the research, tells HealthDay News. "It's important for people to understand that they can be addictive, and increase the risk of confusion and falls."

More than 36 million people worldwide are affected by Alzheimer's disease, according to the Alzheimer's Association. It is predicted that this number will increase to 115 million by 2050. 

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