Benzodiazepines – Xanax, Valium, Ativan – Found To Increase Risk For Alzheimer’s Disease


Dr. Malaz Boustani, patient, and caregiver. Dr. Boustani cowrote an editorial published along with the study saying older adults need to be cautious using these drugs. “The bigger message is that we need to take care of our brains. And the first step is to do no harm.”1

This new study found that people who took (were prescribed) benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax, Valium, Ativan) for 3 months or more were 51% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than people who never took them. The risk was almost doubled if they’d taken them for more than 6 months:

Benzodiazepine Use And Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease: Case-Control Study, BMJ, September 2014

Conclusion: Benzodiazepine use is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The stronger association observed for long term exposures reinforces the suspicion of a possible direct association, even if benzodiazepine use might also be an early marker of a condition associated with an increased risk of dementia. Unwarranted long term use of these drugs should be considered as a public health concern.

Here’s another recent study, same message:

Benzodiazepine Use And Risk Of Dementia: Prospective Population Based Study, BMJ, September 2012

Conclusions: In this prospective population based study, new use of benzodiazepines was associated with increased risk of dementia. The result was robust in pooled analyses across cohorts of new users of benzodiazepines throughout the study and in a complementary case-control study. Considering the extent to which benzodiazepines are prescribed and the number of potential adverse effects of this drug class in the general population, indiscriminate widespread use should be cautioned against.

This study also found an increased risk of dementia in past users.

Diabetes: Side effects of benzodiazepines include insomnia, anxiety, and panic attacks. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia (diseases that benzos may cause or worsen) also include insomnia, anxiety, and panic attacks. Insomnia, anxiety, and other psychotropic ailments have been linked to metabolic disorders such as diabetes. That is distinct from a direct effect of these drugs on blood glucose … just one dose of a benzodiazepine can cause insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance. One dose.

These drugs are addictive and have horrendous side effects. They’re meant to be used episodically, not longer than 1 month for insomnia or 3 months for anxiety. That’s not how they’re being used. I blame that on doctors since the drugs require a prescription, and on pharmaceutical companies who lack incentive to restrict sales. According to Christopher Byron (prize-winning investigative journalist and New York Times best-selling author, writing in The Fix) just one benzo, Klonopin/clonazepam, earns drug companies over $1 billion a year.

One in nine people over 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. (2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts And Figures, Alzheimer’s Association)
1Anxiety Medications May Be Tied to Alzheimer’s Risk, HealthDay, 9 September 2014

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