Researchers from Inserm Unit 657 found that the use of benzodiazepines for three months or longer in people age 65 and older increased the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.
Benzodiazepines, often prescribed to relieve symptoms of anxiety and sleep disturbances, have previously been linked to an increased risk of dementia, as a 2012 study of a French cohort by Inserm Unit 657 showed. The new study aimed to confirm that association, including a potential dose-effect relationship.
The researchers monitored 1,796 cases of Alzheimer’s disease in patients 66 years or older and living in Quebec, Canada for 6 years, and compared the cases to 7,184 healthy people of similar age and sex for the same period of time.
Results showed an increase in risk, up to 51%, of developing Alzheimer’s after using the drug for three months or longer, noting that the association grew stronger with more prolonged exposure to the drug and the use of long-acting benzodiazepines as compared to short-acting.
While the cause and effect relationship has not been proven, and benzodiazepines remain an effective therapy for anxiety and insomnia, researchers urge physicians to have greater awareness and good practices in their use of the drug, including suggesting an appropriate prescription for a short period of time.
This study aims to show the potential dose-effect relationship between benzodiazepines and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The study, published in the British Medical Journal, showed up to a 51% increase in risk in developing the neurodegenerative disorder in people over age 65 and taking benzodiazepines for three months or longer.