The Link Between Anxiety Drugs and Alzheimer’s

Did You Know…that solid evidence supports a link between anxiety drugs and Alzheimer’s?

A record number of Americans now struggle with anxiety—and if you are among them, make no mistake: antianxiety drugs are not often the best solution.  Findings from a study carried out by French and Canadian scientists indicate certain anti-anxiety medications may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The findings showed a link between increased rates of Alzheimer’s and benzodiazepines, a class of anti-anxiety (or anxiolytic) drugs that includes…

  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Librium
  • Ativan
  • Klonopin

Popular sleep aids Lunesta and Ambien are also benzodiazepines.  Using records from the public health insurance program in Quebec, researchers compared the health histories of nearly 1,800 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s to those of close to 7,200 control subjects.

Ultimately, there was a 51% increase in the chances of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis for individuals who took benzodiazepines.

The More Pills You Take, the Higher Your Risk

In an interview with the press, Dr. Antoine Pariente, pharmacoepidemioligist at the University of Bordeaux and co-author of the study, explained that the more doses a person took, the greater the odds for that same person developing dementia later in life.

Which Came First: The Drugs or the Disease? 

When planning the study, the researchers made sure to control for health demographic factors, for instance, the possibility that conditions like anxiety, depression, and insomnia are connected to dementia, not the drugs.  They also eliminated the possibility of what some call “reverse causation bias.”

Alzheimer’s symptoms appear gradually and may include the very issues benzodiazepines treat, anxiety and insomnia, for instance.  That means it would be theoretically possible that it was the early symptoms of the disease that necessitated the drug being prescribed at all.  To account for that, the researchers specifically focused on Alzheimer’s patients with a gap at least 5 years between their benzodiazepine use and their diagnosis.

     Prior research has exposed links between benzodiazepines and other health concerns, such as…

 Falls and fractures
 Car accidents
 Cognitive difficulties
 Hospital admissions
 Emergency room visits

While the case against the use of benzodiazepines may seem clear, those who use the drugs often feel no other solution will adequately treat their problems.  The important thing, experts say, is to get the information out there.  If someone is willing to take the risk, that’s their decision to make, but it should be an informed one.  As always, the choice is in your hands.

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