HealthDay News — Patients with minimal exposure to benzodiazepine have a slightly increased risk of dementia, according to a study published in The BMJ.

Shelly L. Gray, PharmD, from the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues conducted a prospective population-based cohort study involving 3434 participants aged 65 years and older without dementia at study entry. The authors administered the cognitive screening instrument every 2 years to screen for dementia and assess cognitive trajectory. Computerized pharmacy data were used to identify benzodiazepine exposure, which consisted of the total standardized daily doses (TSDDs) dispensed over a 10-year period.

The researchers found that 23.2% of participants (797 participants) developed dementia over a mean follow-up of 7.3 years, of whom 637 developed Alzheimer’s disease. For cumulative benzodiazepine use of one to 30, 31 to 120, and ≥121 TSDDs versus non-use, the hazard ratios for dementia were 1.25 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.03 to 1.51), 1.31 (95% CI, 1.00 to 1.71), and 1.07 (95% CI, 0.82 to 1.39), respectively. Similar results were seen for Alzheimer’s disease. There was no correlation for higher benzodiazepine use with more rapid cognitive decline.

“The risk of dementia is slightly higher in people with minimal exposure to benzodiazepines but not with the highest level of exposure,” the authors write. “These results do not support a causal association between benzodiazepine use and dementia.”

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One author disclosed financial ties to UpToDate; one author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.


Gray SL, Dublin S, Yu O, et al. Benzodiazepine use and risk of incident dementia or cognitive decline: prospective population based study. BMJ. 2016;352:i90.