Anxiety and 'Z-Drugs' Linked To Dementia & Alzheimer's

Anxiety and 'Z-Drugs' Linked To Dementia & Alzheimer's

Common anxiety drugs such as Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin, and related insomnia drugs such as Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata, increase the chance of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, says a new report from Canadian and French researchers. The study, just published in the British Medical Journal, reports that using benzodiazepine anxiety drugs and the strongly similar “nonbenzodiazepine” insomnia drugs, often called “z-drugs”, is not only linked to higher rates of Alzheimer’s, but the longer you take it the greater the chances are of suffering from dementia. Dr. Antoine Pariente, of the University of Bordeaux, France, a co-author of the study, told Paula Span of the New York Times that “the more the cumulative days of use, the higher the risk of later being diagnosed with dementia.” The research also showed that the link between benzos and dementia is even stronger when it involves the longer-acting forms of the drug, like Valium, than the types of benzos that are eliminated from the body more quickly, such as Ativan and Xanax. The study involved 1,800 older people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in Quebec and compared them with nearly 7,200 control subjects.

There was an overall 51 percent higher risk of Alzheimer’s for those who had taken benzodiazepines. The risk of dementia rose 32 percent for older patients who took daily doses for 91 to 180 days, compared to those who took none. For those who took daily doses for more than 180 days, the risk was 84 percent higher, the Times reported. And, Dr. Pariente said, it didn’t matter whether the 180 doses were taken daily over six months, or spread out over five years, the results were the same. According to the Times’ Paula Span, a seasoned reporter with extensive experience reporting on disease and treatment of the elderly, the study by researchers at the University of Bordeaux and University of Montreal was “designed with particular care” to ensure that statistical and procedural objections that could be expected for such a study were carefully considered and answered, and that their findings were still valid. These drugs cause Alzheimer’s, the study says, and the more you take them, and the longer you take them, the greater the risk.

What are benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium etc.) and the “non-benzodiazapine hypnotics” such as Ambien and Lunesta, nicknamed the “z-drugs” because they’re for sleep, work very much the same way in the brain. In fact, they’re so similar that some scientists don’t bother to distinguish between the two and just call them all “benzodiazepines.” This broad class of drugs is used for one or more of their anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), sedative, hypnotic (sleep-inducing), anticonvulsant and muscle relaxant properties, while others are used to cause amnesia and even general dissociation – a detachment from physical and emotional experience. The reasons the researchers wanted to do this study are:

  • Dementia is currently the main cause of dependency in older people and a major public health concern affecting about 36 million people worldwide.
  • Because of population growth, this number is expected to double every 20 years and to reach 115 million in 2050, resulting in tragic human consequences and social costs.
  • Since the cause is unknown and there are no effective treatments, the search for the cause and for effective treatment is a high priority.
  • Several studies have already shown that benzodiazepines could be one of the causes.
  • This class of drugs is mainly used to treat anxiety or insomnia and their use among elderly patients is consistently high in developed countries – as high 43 percent.
  • International guidelines recommend short term use of benzodiazepines, mainly because of withdrawal symptoms, but these guidelines are not always followed.
  • Finally, although the long term effectiveness of benzos remains unproven for insomnia and is questionable for anxiety, their use is “predominantly chronic” in older people.

As we can see, these drugs have a huge effect on the functioning of the human mind and body. Now they’re being shown to have seriously negative long-term effects. The study authors say that “unwarranted long term use of these drugs should be considered as a public health concern.” A public health concern? That’s quite a limb for these scientists to climb out on. But they know that, and they’re putting their reputations on the line because of the seriousness of their findings. It’s only a matter of time until the drug companies involved come calling on the medical journals with other studies aimed at nullifying the critical study.

Studies such as this one not only crash sales – almost every one of these brand-name benzos is a billion-dollar money-maker – they usually lead to massively expensive class action lawsuits. Lawsuits over negative drug side effects have become a common occurrence in America and to some extent overseas. Sometimes the problems arise because most drugs are tested to learn what a “safe” dose is, but the “safe” dose isn’t tested over a long-enough period of time to reveal the dangers. And that seems to be the case with the benzodiazepines.

Here at Novus, we’ve helped a lot of people deal with benzodiazapine dependence. But this new information adds another dimension to the motivation for getting off benzos for good. If you have a problem with benzodiazapine dependence, or know someone who does, please call Novus today. We can help, it’s what we do.

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