Common Prescription Could Raise Your Risk for Alzheimer’s

Anxiety disorders affect 14% of seniors every year, and are often treated by prescription medication. But, a recent study shows that long-term use of commonly prescribed medication may lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Common Prescription Could Raise Your Risk for Alzheimer's

Learn more about this risk and what it means for seniors who take anxiety prescriptions.

Connection Between Medications And Alzheimer’s

A recent study has found that people who use certain anti-anxiety and insomnia medications long-term may be raising their risk of Alzheimer’s. The study was completed by French and Canadian researchers in Quebec and used data from Quebec’s health insurance program database.

Researchers looked at the brain health of seniors who had been prescribed benzodiazepines over a six year period, which included medications like: Valium, Ativan, Xanax and Klonopin.

The study concluded that those individuals who used benzodiazepines for longer than three months increased their risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 51%. The longer participants were using the drug, the higher their risk was for developing dementia. In addition, researchers noted that individuals who used long-acting or extended release forms of benzodiazepines had a much higher risk for Alzheimer’s than those who used shorter acting forms of the exact same medication. 

Proceeding With Caution

While this particular study only establishes correlation and not causation, experts recommend that seniors use benzodiazepine with caution.

Previous studies have also linked this particular class of drugs to dementia, and its long-term impact on cognition is widely accepted among scientists and doctors. The drug can be highly addictive, and because it is a type of sedative, some rely on it as a sleeping aid, increasing their likelihood to become addicted.

In a 2012 report The American Geriatrics Society said this of the medication: “Older adults have increased sensitivity to benzodiazepines and slower metabolism of long-acting agents. In general, all benzodiazepines increase risk of cognitive impairment, delirium, falls, fractures, and motor vehicle accidents in older adults.” 

While benzodiazepines may be appropriate medication for seizure disorders, end-of life care, REM sleep disorder and anxiety disorders, experts recommend it not be used for longer than a three month period.

Have you seen a correlation between anti-anxiety medication and Alzheimer’s? Share your story in the comments below.

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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • Rebecca Lee

    Could we have the name of the study please?

    • caitlinburm

      Hi Rebecca,

      The name of the study is “Benzodiazepines and risk of Alzheimer’s disease” and more information about the study can be found in the first link of this article. You can also read more about it here: http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g5312

      Thank you!

  • Blonde Lebanese

    My 90 year old dad has very advanced Alzheimer’s. My 88 year old mom’s doctor has told us that she also has Alzheimer’s, but more in the way of Dementia. She’s been taking Xanax .5 mg for about 35 years. Only one per day until my dad became very ill, now she’s prescribed 2 tablets per day. We are faced with the difficult decision of putting one or both of them in a nursing home. Her symptoms have increased quite a bit in the last 2 years. We have no money for ‘assisted living’ facilities. I fear that if she is taken off the long prescribed Xanax, she will totally lose it and have a nervous breakdown. What would be your advice in this frightening situation?

    • connie r

      My heart goes out to you in your situation. I wish I could say I had a solution. I just wanted to let you know that someone was listening and hearing your call for help. I will pray for help to come to you in whatever form is most useful. Many mothers of 3 children need help in caring for them; you are no different. There are daycare facilities for the elderly that can give you some respite, church groups, hospice in some cases maybe for your father. God bless you

      • Blonde Lebanese

        Thank you so much for your kind reply. I have tried to find a way to access some of those services but at present, I have been unsuccessful. I was told that there was a waiting list. I understand but the struggle to care for their daily needs completely overwhelms me. Being permanently disabled just adds to the difficulty that I face. I don’t want to sound like I’m whining because sometimes that is how some people react to me. I’m so used to that type of negative reactions that you seem like an angel shining a bright light of understanding toward me. Thank you…more than you know, for just listening. Peace, love and light to you.

        • connie r

          Oh you are so welcome. I am so very sorry that you are placed in such a difficult position. May I ask what state you live in? I know that smaller cities don’t offer as much as some of the larger cities. I think most people who live in a city that has help for your issues don’t understand that sometimes they are as available everywhere. but no matter where you are, there are still churches if you are a member of one, or even if you are not, you could appeal to them for help in getting you to and from appointments that might help you.

          If your parents are strictly on medicare, they may be eligible for medicaid, medicare. Within those programs are people that volunteer to help the elderly get the services they need. Your doctor’s office should also be a resource as they have first hand knowledge of the problems you are dealing with. Don’t be shy. Stand up for yourself and let these people know you have less and less ability to continue the care for all these people. Do you have any brothers or sisters or uncles and aunts that might be a resource? There are usually “help” lines that you can call – look in your phone book and find one that says something like “first help” or such, and they usually can’t begin your journey with the next step. If you are really at your wits end, call the police, tell them you are in this situation and your are unable to handle it. Tell them you need help right now.

          We can continue to pray for you, and listen. Write down on a piece of paper all the things that you need help with. Number them. Then look them over and put them in order of importance to you to make things better. Now you have a plan. If you can go online, type in Eldercare and see what it brings up in your city. If you can talk with someone, use your list so you can be precise on what would help you and when you need it. Sometimes being overwhelmed by all the things at once seem impossible. Breaking them down to manageable portions might help you get help from one place for one part of it, and help from another place for another part. God bless you for not giving up.

          People who condemn you for complaining have never walked a mile in your shoes. Ignore them. Allow yourself to mourn your circumstances – just like grief… then begin to try and rebuild your situation. How old are your children? Can they help in small ways? I hope so. Also, the church, they are charged by God to care for those less able. Find the closest church and call them. Tell them your situation and ask for help. We will be here to listen.

          Sincerely,
          Connie

        • Anita

          How are things going for you now? I hope better. I just noticed this post is over a month old. I am new to many things regarding social security, Alzhiemer’s, and care. My prayers are with you and your family. The only thing I may have to offer, that I was told, is no matter the wait for anything your signing up for, is to, sign up. Better to be on a list with a wait, than to not be on a list with no wait. I will wait for a reply before I continue on with any help or information I may can contribute to this discussion. Again. Prayers are with you.

          • Blonde Lebanese

            Anita, thank you for your kind words. Now that both of my parents have passed away, within 16 days of each other, I am feeling a huge sense of loss and profound sadness. Even though are gone I feel that I should have done more, if that were possible. Hopefully others will be helped by your information, as I hoped to have done.

          • Blonde Lebanese

            Because I don’t often have time to spend using the computer, I am really late in seeing your reply. Thank you so much for your thoughts and encouragement. It really helped. Unfortunately, both of my parents passed away…within 16 days of each other. One thing I hope everyone that is struggling with the burden of taking care of Alzheimers parents knows, you never know when they may be taken from you. My family believes that they are both now in a better place. I’m trying really hard to come to grips with the loss of my mom and dad. I feel a bit overwhelmed but I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. My dad had very little of his former self in the last few months. I choose to remember him as he was all throughout my life rather than the man who he had become. He would not have wanted to continue that condition if he had any idea what would have been the end result. Thanks to everyone who shared their concern and caring with me. I truly appreciate it all.

    • Elector

      Check with your county Area Agency on Aging. They offer free daycare facilities. Some even run a bus to p/u residents. Ask about their homemaker and nutrition programs. They offer these services based upon your income. Many offer community centers that have activities for senior adults. Good luck. Prayers.

      • Blonde Lebanese

        Thank you for your help and kindness. I shall try again to apply for those services. Your prayers are very appreciated. Both you and Connie have lessened my despair and it helps so much to know that someone actually cares. Thank you so very much.

        • Momofboys

          If social security is all they have and they are far along with alz/dementia, they’ll probably qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid will pay for nursing home stay. We had to do that with my MIL. She is end stage Alzheimer’s. You’ll need to contact your local medicaid office and they’ll assign a caseworker. The caseworker will come out and do an evaluation and will be able to help them get services.

    • Cathy Greene

      God Bless you Blonde for standing by and taking care of your parents. If it were my 88 year old Mom, I would keep her on her meds. Just what I would do. Your Mom is 88 years old and I would think if it were my Mom, why take her off the med and upset her more. I would leave her on her meds. God Bless you !

  • Vera R Hunt

    My brother is going through this with his wife…but when they try her on the anti-anxiety meds, she goes further away than with nothing. And this is scary because I and my two daughters and my oldest grandaughter all suffer from depression/anxiety and either are or have been on all of these types of meds.

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