Medications for Anxiety and Sleep Linked to Alzheimer’s
Medications for Anxiety and Sleep Linked to Alzheimer’s
In a new study, medications widely used for anxiety and insomnia are linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. In order to determine the validity of these findings, let us look at Alzheimer’s disease and the current treatment options available to patients. With this information we will be able to understand this potentially harmful link between anxiety and sleep meds and incidence of Alzheimer’s.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Defined by ALZ.org, Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms
usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia
It can often be considered as a general term for memory loss and causes problems to normal everyday life activities. Alzheimer’s disease makes up 60 to 80 percent of all reported and diagnosed dementia cases.
Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging
Some people assume that since most Alzheimer’s patients are over the age of 65 that this is true, but in reality, age is only considered a risk factor, not the end-all. Of those patients with Alzheimer’s, five percent have early onset Alzheimer’s (or younger-onset), which usually develops in men and women in their 40s and 50s.
Alzheimer’s worsens over time
Since Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, conditions deteriorate over the years. Early cases of Alzheimer’s
include mile memory loss, while late-stage patients struggle to carry on conversation. In the United States, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death and those with the disease live, on average, eight years after being diagnosed.
Alzheimer’s has no current cure, but despite this, research continues and treatment of some symptoms is possible. There are some treatments that can improve the quality of life of the patient by slowing the progression of the condition.
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. But drug and non-drug treatments may help with both cognitive and behavioral symptoms.
Researchers are looking for new treatments to alter the course of the disease and improve the quality of life for people with dementia but the following options are available to individuals with dementia. In the section below we will discuss the drug interactions meant to treat anxiety or sleep disorder with an increase in dementia. Below are the various types of treatment available to patients.
- Medications for Memory Loss
- Treatments for Behavioral Changes of Alzheimer’s
- Treatments for Sleep Changes
- Alternative Treatments for Alzheimer’s
- Questions for Your Doctor
- Treatment Horizon
- Clinical Trials
Linking Anxiety and Insomnia Medications to Dementia
In a new study, medications widely used for anxiety and insomnia are linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. The study, published Tuesday in the medical journal BMJ, does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between benzodiazepines – drugs such as Xanax, Ativan and Valium – and dementia. But it does show Alzheimer’s was 51% more common in older adults who took the drugs in the past. The risk started to show up with three months of use and rose from there. So the longer individuals were on anxiety medication the more they were at risk to dementia. Another important notation was Alzheimer’s was also greatest in patients who took long-acting versions of insomnia or anxiety medications.
Not everyone is surprised however with these findings. Kristine Yaffe of the University of California, San Francisco, and Malaz Boustani of the Indiana University Center for Aging Research think it’s logical that benzodiazepines are associated with adverse cognitive effects in individuals. This new study was done rigorously enough to raise concerns about irreversible effects in long-term users of anxiety and insomnia medications
The question, those experts say, is whether the effects, including diminished memory and
thinking skills, are passing or potentially permanent. If in fact the effects are found to be permanent and directly related to the taking of anxiety and insomnia medications, then it will be important the medical community is aware of these concerns to hopefully educate patients and doctors.
One obvious possible reason for a link could be that people who go on to develop Alzheimer’s first develop anxiety, depression and trouble sleeping – which they treat with pills. The researchers say they adjusted their results to account for earlier diagnoses of those conditions and still found what appears to be an independent link with Alzheimer’s, but they said they cannot be sure that all previous health problems showed up in the records. They also cannot be sure that patients took all the pills they were prescribed.
In order to conduct this study, researchers in Canada and France reviewed health records of 1,796 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and 7,184 other adults over age 66, all from Quebec. The link with benzodiazepines was found in health records going back at least six years before the diagnoses.
The American Geriatrics Society already cautions doctors against routinely prescribing benzodiazepines to older adults because past studies have already linked those drugs with car crashes, falls and hip fractures.
About the Author
Hobson Lopes is a 2012 graduate of Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Conn. He is a professional writer and author of a cookbook for men called Men Cook Too. He is also the owner of The First Pitch and can be followed on Twitter.