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