An alarming new study has found a link between benzodiazepine use and Alzheimer’s disease which suggests that long-term use of certain sleep and anxiety drugs can lead to higher rates of Alzheimer’s. The drugs in question are known as “sedative-hypnotics” and include things like Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, and Valium. A related class of sleep drugs, like Ambien and Lunesta, are also implicated.
The study, which involved nearly 2,000 Alzheimer’s patients and over 7,000 control subjects, found that the more the benzodiazepines were used, the more the risk increased. That is, that people who took the drugs longer were more likely to eventually get an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. For people who took the drugs for between 3 and 6 months, their Alzheimer’s risk was up 32% over non-users. For those who took the drugs more than 6 months, the risk jumped to 84% higher than non-users.
The good news is that short-term use of fewer than 90 doses in total seemed to have no effect.
The bad news is that the researchers found the effects to be cumulative over time, meaning that even sporadic use that cumulatively added up to more than 90 total doses seemed to increase risk.