Link between Long Term Use of Benzodiazepine and Alzheimer’s Risk

Long term use of benzodiazepine drugs to treat Insomnia and Anxiety may be lead to enhanced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, with respect to a new research presented in the BMJ.

The primary cause of dependency in older individuals, dementia presently impacts more than 35 million individuals globally. This number is predicted to double every 20 years due to population growth, attaining an approximated 115 million in 2050.

There are no successful therapies available for dementia, so discovering modifiable risk aspects is important to prevent these forecast human effects and social costs.

Earlier study has recognized an enhanced risk of dementia among benzodiazepine users, but the mechanism driving the association – along with the dosage connected to the risk – has not been clear.

Benzodiazepine primarily used to deal with anxiety and insomnia, these drugs are extensively used in developed nations, especially among the elderly. Because of robust withdrawal symptoms, and because long lasting effectiveness of the benzodiazepines continues to be unproved, international guidelines suggest only short-term use of the medicines.

However, even though benzodiazepines are identified to affect memory and cognition, showing that they lead to onset of dementia symptoms is quite difficult. This is partially because the symptoms that benzodiazepines are recommended to treat – anxiety, insomnia, and depression – are also signs experienced in the years prior to dementia is diagnosed.

New research observed 1,796 Alzheimer’s sufferers over 6 years

The scientists monitored development of Alzheimer’s disease among a sample of aged people who had been recommended benzodiazepines in Quebec, Canada, by evaluating data from the Quebec health insurance program database.

Over a research period of 6 years, the scientists recognized 1,796 conditions of Alzheimer’s disease. Each case was matched for age, gender and length of follow-up, and compared with healthy individuals from a group of 7,180 control subjects.

The study identified that benzodiazepine use for 3 months or more was related with an enhanced risk of Alzheimer’s condition of up to 51 percent. The more time the subjection to benzodiazepines, the higher the risk of Alzheimer’s. Long acting benzodiazepines were also identified to raise risk above short-acting benzodiazepines.

The scientists report that modifying for symptoms that might recommend dementia onset – like as anxiety, depression or sleep disorders – “did not meaningfully modify the outcomes.”

Although the researchers developed the research particularly to decrease “reverse causation bias” – where cause and effect are mixed up – they declare they cannot entirely rule out the possibility that “benzodiazepine use may be an early marker of a condition connected with an enhanced threat of dementia and not the cause.”

The authors state that their results are of “major significance for public health, particularly thinking about the occurrence and chronicity of benzodiazepine use in older  populations and the high and growing occurrence of dementia in developed nations.”

“It is now essential to motivate doctors to properly balance the positive aspects and risks when starting or renewing a therapy with benzodiazepines and associated products in older patients,” they add.

In a relevant editorial, Prof. Kristine Yaffe and Prof. Malaz Boustani, say that regardless of benzodiazepines being included to the American Geriatrics Society’s list of unsuitable drugs for older people in 2012, nearly 50% of older people keep on to use them.

Yaffe and Boustani recommend that a formal tracking system may be essential to estimate the long-term consequences of these medicines on brain health.