Benzodiazepine Medications Linked to an Increase of Dementia

By no credit [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There is new research which suggests that the use of benzodiazepines for treating psychiatric conditions should not be done, as the evidence indicates these drugs increase the risks of dementia and death.

Benzodiazepines include the common prescription medications: Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin and Valium. This particular drug class was first approved in the 1960s and was thought to be a better option than barbiturates.

The Study:

In spite of there being new psychiatric protocols in place, some doctors keep prescribing benzodiazepines to treat anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and other conditions.

What do Researchers Say?

Dr. Helene Alphonso a board-certified psychiatrist said, “Current research is extremely clear and physicians need to partner with their patients to move them into therapies, like antidepressants, that are proven to be safer and more effective.”
Additionally, she added,” Due to no shortage of mental health professionals in rural and under-served areas, we see primary care physicians using this class of drugs to give relief to their patients with psychiatric symptoms. While compassionate, it’s important to understand that a better long-term strategy is needed.”

Dr. Alphonse will take a look at the current protocols for treatment, outpatient benzodiazepine detox methods and alternative options for treating anxiety at OMED 15 (America Osteopathic Association conference), to be held on Oct. 17-21, 2015 in Orlando, Florida.

The Study:

Canadian researchers reviewed 9,000 patients and found those who took benzodiazepines for less than three months had the same risk increase for dementia as one who had never taken them before. Taking these drugs for 3-6 months led to a 32 percent increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, taking these drugs for more than 6 months raised the risk by 84 percent. French researchers found similar results when studying more than 1,000 elderly individuals.

Medical experts state the reason for limiting the use of benzodiazepines is particularly important in people aged 65 years or older who are more likely to experience falls, accidental overdose, injuries and death when using these medications. In 2012, the American Geriatric Society labeled the medications as “inappropriate” for treating agitation, insomnia or delirium due to those risk factors.


Dr. Alphonse further stated,” It’s imperative to transition older patients because we’re seeing a very strong correlation between use of benzodiazepines and development of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. While correlation certainly isn’t causation, there’s ample reason to avoid this class of drugs as a first-line therapy.”

ocd self test
Do you or a loved one feel like you might have a problem with OCD? Take the Self Test now to get more information.

The information provided on is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Click here to read our complete Terms of Use.

Susbscribe to our free newsletter for information & inspiration

Email Social