A new study finds that a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, marketed under such familiar names as as Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin (widely used for insomnia and anxiety), all boost the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease. As reported, the study from French and Canadian researchers compared the pattern of benzodiazepine use in 1,796 elderly people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s with that of 7,184 similar people who had no such diagnosis.
Such a study design…cannot by itself establish that more intensive use of the medications causes Alzheimer’s disease, but it does strengthen such suspicions. Frequent high doses were particularly worrisome, with such dosages adding up to regular use over several months. The widely prescribed medicines marketed as Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata (generically named zolpidem, eszopiclone and zaleplon) are “atypical benzodiazepines” and were not included in the analysis.
“The authors of the study created an index that gauged the intensity of a participant’s benzodiazepine use and found that at the end of a five-year period following an initial prescription, Alzheimer’s risk mounted steadily”. “Those who took the cumulative equivalent of daily doses for three to six months over a five-year period were roughly 32% more likely than those who took none to develop Alzheimer’s. Those who took the cumulative equivalent of a full daily dose for more than six months were 84% more likely to do so.”