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Anxiety and sleep medication linked to Alzheimer’s development

A view of Xanax, which is one example of a benzodiazepine.
A view of Xanax, which is one example of a benzodiazepine.
/UIG Via Getty Images

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Heavy consumption of benzodiazepines, found in anxiety and sleep medications like Xanax, Valium and Ativan, may be linked to Alzheimer’s development in older people, according to a new study published this week in the journal BMJ.

French and Canadian researchers compared the use of benzodiazepines in 1,796 elderly people who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s with 7,184 who were not diagnosed with the disease. They found that individuals who took these medications infrequently and in small doses, or those that took large doses over a short period of time, did not see their risk elevate over the course of five years. However, those who frequently took high doses or took medications regularly over three to six months were 32% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Additionally, those who consumed the medications for over six months were 84% more likely to develop the disease.

What is an alternative to taking anxiety and sleep medications? If patients are mandated to take these prescriptions, how can they prevent a more serious condition in the future?


Dr. Malaz Boustani, M.D., Center Scientist, Indiana University Center for Aging Research; Co-authored Editorial about this study in the BMJ

Dr. Zaldy Tan, M.D., Medical Director of UCLA Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Program; Associate Professor at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine