Taking Benzodiazepines for Anxiety and Insomnia Increase Risk of Alzheimer’s Deaths, Study Finds

Taking Benzodiazepines for Anxiety and Insomnia Increase Risk of Alzheimer’s Deaths, Study Finds
Alzheimer’s patients who take benzodiazepines for anxiety, agitation, and insomnia are at a 40 percent greater risk of death than those who don't take the therapies, a study reports. The research, “Risk of death associated with new benzodiazepine use among persons with Alzheimer disease: A matched cohort study,” was published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Several treatment guidelines contend that the first option for treating anxiety, agitation and insomnia in persons with dementia should not be drugs. But doctors often prescribe benzodiazepines and similar drugs for these conditions. The makers recommended them only for short-term use, however. Researchers decided to investigate the risk of death associated with these medicines. They looked at the records of patients in Finland's MEDALZ (Medication Use and Alzheimer's Disease) study, which covered everyone in the country diagnosed with Alzheimer's between 2005 and 2011. The team looked at reports on 10,380 patients who had taken benzodiazepine for the first time. They matched the treated patients with twice as many patients who had not taken the drugs — 20,760 in all. The matching involved patients' age, sex, and time since an Alzheimer's diagnosis. Researchers took into account only the deaths that occurred in the first 180 days of benzodiazepine treatment. The key finding was that 40 percent more of the treated patients died than the non-treated ones. Researchers said the risk of death rose immediately after a patient began taking benzodiazepin
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  1. We are now supposed to use SSRIs for anxiety, because benzodiazepines heighten dementia risk. O.k. so in my experience of 32 years as a physician, SSRIs work minimally if at all for anxiety, so I would be putting a patient at heightened risk for dementia with a drug that isn’t even effective for their anxiety. The risk benefit ratio isn’t worth it. Any honest doctor knows gabapentin, Lyrica, hydroxyzine, et al don’t work for anxiety either. That leaves only benzodiazepines, but at least they work! If I am discouraged from giving a benezodiazepine to an anxiety patient and don’t do so, they either wrap their car around a tree during a panic attack or self medicate with alcohol. Are these scenarios better than giving a benzodiazepine? Medicine today lacks common sense, lacks seeing the bigger picture. Further, many menopausal women in the 1950’s took diazepam. It wasn’t addictive back then. So why is it now addictive 70 years later? Does anyone see the logic in my argument here? The Harvard and University of London studies showing the relationship between benzodiazepines and dementia was funded by drug companies with new anti anxiety medications being developed in their R and D. Getting the picture? I am sick of being the cause of patients death from accidents during a panic attack because I am restricted from giving them the only drug that works. And for patient with life long anxiety, what is the addiction issue? They are always going to need the drug. Where has the common sense in medicine gone regarding anxiety treatment?. So many classes of medications are shown to cause dementia including statins and antibiotics. Why are we picking on benezodiazepines? Why are we were squelching our ability to treat the very common problem of anxiety, that 50 of my patients have? What is wrong with this picture? I hope anyone reading this sees the common sense here and realizes benezodiazepines are the only effective treatment for anxiety and takes it off the list of medications discouraged that we prescribe. Help me save the life of my patients. Please.

    • I meant to add at the beginning of the article that SSRIs, the now standard treatment for anxiety are also shown to increase dementia risk. Probably all the Cymbalta I’ve been taking has impaired my cognitive function and I can no longer put together a coherent reply. Dr. Nordin

    • Victoria says:

      Perhaps, as a physician, you should explore treatments other than pharmaceutical ones. Medicate away the symptoms and not treating the cause is old-fashioned and anti-human.
      And saying benzos weren’t addictive 70 years ago is a complete lie. It has been hidden well, that is all.

      • gregory tichy says:

        there are those of us who have suffered with anxiety problems all of out lives. i treated mine with alcohol for 22 years before i quit boozing. (32 years sober with no desire to drink). after the euphoria of qitting drinking wore off my anxiety problems, from which i suffered since late childhood, began to resurface. after a wife that served me with divorce papers on new years eve and being unemolyed for 14 months, i finally had a complete mental collapse which included serious thoughts of suicide. i sought help from my local
        mental health center and was put on paxil,xanax and trazadone. now 12years later i am doing fine on the same program as the beginning. i am sick of these uninformed people who say just suck it up. do yoga meditation, progressive relaxation. there is no fix for your brain not producing gaba or seratonin. there needs to be a suppliment whence the need for benzodiazipnes. greg

  2. david ambler says:

    Benzodiazepines were not available 70 years ago. Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) was the first benzodiazepine, and was first synthesized by Leo Sternbach in 1955 when he was employed by Hoffman La Roche.

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