Benzodiazepines, the anxiety and sleeping drugs, increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by more than 50 per cent-and the risk gets greater the longer you take them.
The first symptoms of the disease begin around five years after starting benzodiazepines, and the effect was greater in those taking daily doses of the drug.
Researchers from the University of Bordeaux said there seems to be a direct cause-and-effect between the drug and the disease, although there is the possibility that people who are displaying early signs of the disease already-such as anxiety attacks or insomnia-might then begin taking the drug. However, their discovery is in line with earlier studies that also found a connection.
The researchers say their findings are a matter of public health concern, and people who are taking the drugs as a lifestyle choice should stop immediately.
They based their findings on a study of 1,796 people aged from 66 upwards, who had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and compared them to 7,184 people of similar age and profile who were healthy.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2014; 349: g5205)