Sleep Aids and Alzheimer’s

A study just released has found a correlation between using benzodiazepine and developing Alzheimer’s disease.

This is scary stuff as benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep problems. Here are a few of the medications prescribed to treat insomnia that contain benzodiazepine: Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), Halcion (triazolam), Restoril (temazepam), Doral (quazepam), Serax (oxazepam), and ProSom (estazolam), among others.

If I read the Harvard Health Blog correctly, people in the study who used benzodiazepine for 3 to 6 months had a 32% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Those who took it for more than 6 months raised their risk to 84%. In addition, those on long-acting drugs like Valium were at a higher risk than those prescribed short-acting drugs like Ativan and Xanax.

Now correlation is not the same as causation. It could be that people had the symptoms these meds were prescribed to help because they were developing Alzheimer’s, not that the medication use caused them to develop Alzheimer’s. Still, the possibility is troubling.

It will take more research to determine what causes what. Still, the connection is alarming.

By the way, if you are currently taking a medication with benzodiazepine in it and want to get off the drug, talk to your doctor first about the best way to do that. There can be serious, even dangerous, side effects from going cold turkey.

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