Over 65s at increased risk of developing dementia with benzodiazepine

September 27, 2012

Research: Benzodiazepine use and risk of dementia: prospective population based study

Patients over the age of 65 who begin taking benzodiazepine (a popular drug used to treat anxiety and insomnia) are at an approximately 50% increased risk of developing dementia within 15 years compared to never-users, a study published today on bmj.com suggests.

The authors say that "considering the extent to which benzodiazepines are prescribed and the number of potential adverse effects indiscriminate widespread use should be cautioned against".

Benzodiazepine is a widely prescribed drug for the over 65s in many countries: 30% of this age group in France, 20% in Canada and Spain, 15% in Australia. Although less widespread in the UK and US it is still very widely used and many individuals take this drug for years despite guidelines suggesting it should be limited to a few weeks. Previous studies have found an increased risk of dementia, but others have been non-conclusive.

Researchers from France therefore carried out a study on 1063 men and women (average age 78) in France who were all free of dementia at the start. The study started in 1987 and follow-up was 20 years. The researchers used the first 5 years to identifying the factors leading to benzodiazepine initiation and evaluated then the association between new use of this drug and the development of dementia. They also assessed the association between further benzodiazepine initiation during the follow-up period and risk of subsequent dementia. Rates were adjusted for many factors potentially affecting dementia, such as age, gender, educational level, marital status, wine consumption, diabetes, high blood pressure, cognitive decline, and depressive symptoms.

95 out of the 1063 patients started taking benzodiazepine during the study. 253 (23.8%) cases of dementia were confirmed, 30 in benzodiazepine users and 223 in non-users. New initiation of the drug was associated with shorter dementia-free survival.

In absolute numbers, the chance of dementia occurring was 4.8 per 100 person years in the exposed group compared to 3.2 per 100 person years in the non-exposed group. A "person year" is a statistical measure representing one person at risk of development of a disease during a period of one year.

The authors say that although benzodiazepine remains useful for treating anxiety and insomnia, there is increasing evidence that its use may induce adverse outcomes in the elderly such as serious falls and fall-related fractures and this study may add dementia to the list. They say that their data add to the accumulating evidence that the use of benzodiazepines is associated with increased risk of dementia and, if true, that this "would constitute a substantial public health concern". Therefore, taken the evidence of potential adverse effects into account, physicians should assess expected benefits, limit prescriptions to a few weeks, and uncontrolled use should be cautioned against. They conclude that further research should "explore whether use of benzodiazepine in those under 65 is also associated with increased risk of dementia and that mechanisms need to be explored explaining the association"
-end-


BMJ

Related Dementia Articles from Brightsurf:

The danger of Z-drugs for dementia patients
Strong sleeping pills known as 'Z-drugs' are linked with an increased risk of falls, fractures and stroke among people with dementia, according to new research.

The long road to dementia
Alzheimer's disease develops over decades. It begins with a fatal chain reaction in which masses of misfolded beta-amyloid proteins are produced that in the end literally flood the brain.

Why people with dementia go missing
People with dementia are more likely to go missing in areas where road networks are dense, complicated and disordered - according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

PTSD may double risk of dementia
People who have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are up to twice as likely to develop dementia later in life, according to a new study by UCL researchers, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Dementia education
School-based dementia education could deliver much needed empathy and understanding for older generations as new research from the University of South Australia shows it can significantly improve dementia knowledge and awareness among younger generations.

Building dementia friendly churches
A project to help church communities become more 'dementia friendly' has had a significant impact across the country.

A "feeling" for dementia?
A research team led by the DZNE concludes that personal perception can be an important indicator for the early detection of Alzheimer's disease.

New biomarker for dementia diagnosis
Medical researchers in the UK and Australia have identified a new marker which could support the search for novel preventative and therapeutic treatments for dementia.

Digital solutions for dementia care
Telehealth delivery of dementia care in the home can be as effective as face-to-face home visit services if carers and recipients take advantage of the technologies available, Australian researchers say.

Despite a marked reduction in the prevalence of dementia, the number of people with dementia is set to double by 2050 according to new Alzheimer Europe report
Today, at a European Parliament lunch debate, Alzheimer Europe launched a new report presenting the findings of its collaborative analysis of recent prevalence studies and setting out updated prevalence rates for dementia in Europe.

Read More: Dementia News and Dementia Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.