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Benzodiazepines LInked to Increased Demential Risk

Filed September 28th, 2012 Laurie

A new study shows that seniors who take benzodiazepines might be at a higher risk of developing dementia than those who do not take them.

Benzodiazepines are prescribed to treat anxiety and insomnia. Most are only intended to be used for a few weeks at a time and can be habit-forming. Studies have found that many older adults take them for longer periods of time, even years.

Popular benzodiazepines include Ambien, Halcion, Klonopin, Restoril, Valium, and Xanax.

The new study, published in the BMJ, compared the dementia risk in 95 of French users who were recent users of any of 23 benzodiazepines or similar drugs at the start of the study and 968 who were not.

During the next 15 years, doctors diagnosed 253 cases of dementia. Thirty people (32%) who had taken benzodiazepines or similar drugs developed memory loss and difficulty thinking, compared to 223 people (23%) who had not taken them.

Doctors found that seniors taking benzodiazepines or similar drugs during that 15-year span were 60 percent more likely to develop dementia.

Researchers say short-term use of the drugs is probably safe, but some experts say they would like seniors to avoid taking the drugs altogether. They also don’t know if the same results would apply to younger adults.

“We don’t have a single study on this topic conducted in younger patients. We don’t know if the risk of dementia is increased in people who use the drugs when they are younger — at age 40 or 45,” says researcher Bernard Begaud, MD, PhD, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Bordeaux in France.

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