Does anxiety medication cause dementia?

Valium and Xanax are benzodiazepines, a type of anti-anxiety drug. Many people take these drugs to calm their nerves or help them sleep. And as a recent study raised the possibility that benzodiazepine use may lead to dementia.

For the study, researchers identified nearly 2,000 men and women over age 66 who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. They randomly selected more than 7,000 other men and women without Alzheimer’s. The researchers looked at what drugs the study subjects had been prescribed in the five to six years before their Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

They found that people who had taken benzodiazepines for a long time had an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. People who had taken a benzodiazepine for three months or less had about the same dementia risk as those who had never taken one. However, taking the drug for three to six months raised the risk of Alzheimer’s by 32 percent. Taking it for more than six months boosted the risk by 84 percent.

The type of drug also mattered. People who took a long-acting benzodiazepine were at greater risk than those on a short-acting one. (If you’re not sure whether the drug you take is long- or short-acting, ask your doctor.)

Though the two may be linked, it’s too early to say whether benzodiazepines cause Alzheimer’s. Studies like this one can’t separate cause and effect. It could be that taking benzodiazepines for a long time actually increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. But it also could be that as Alzheimer’s disease is slowly developing, it causes people to become more anxious and to have more trouble sleeping. That, in turn, could lead people who are developing Alzheimer’s disease to start taking benzodiazepines.

So taking benzodiazepines could lead to Alzheimer’s disease, or developing Alzheimer’s disease could lead people to start taking benzodiazepines. We just can’t be sure.

Does that mean there’s no reason to worry about taking benzodiazepines for more than three months? I don’t think so. First of all, there are many studies that show memory problems linked to benzodiazepines. So it isn’t implausible that medicines that may negatively affect memory could raise the risk of a disease in which memory is destroyed.

And there surely are other reasons for older people to avoid benzodiazepines. Two common side effects of benzodiazepines — confusion and clouded thinking — can lead to falls, fractures and auto accidents.

Finally, benzodiazepines can cause tolerance. Over time, you’ll need a greater amount of the drug to produce the same effect, and you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it.

Talk to your doctor about your anxiety and insomnia. He or she should be able to prescribe drugs that are safer and just as effective as the ones you’re currently taking. more  

View all 8 comments Below 8 comments
Thanks to Mr Garg and Mr Mohan for very informative and useful posts more  
Durga Prasad Ji you are always welcome more  
Thanks Dinesh ji for the information. more  
Dear Kishan Garg it is certain that anti- anxiety drugs taken for longer period is certainly going to effect the nerve system, as for the dementia case it is bit different it depends upon from person to person, if you keep your self in good humour and study the books you like, also playing card or some brain games will keep your brain fit enough, In Homeopathy there is a simple medicine Kali. Phos 6X as brain tonic ,without any side effect. But if there is patient of dementia In my opinion I will prefer Homeopathic treatment more  
There are few medicines in Ayurveda too for anxiety/stress like Ashwagandha, Sarpagandha, Brahmi etc which do not have much side effects and are helpful in reducing dementia too. more  
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