Benzodiazepines, also called “benzos,” may do more harm than good and may even contribute to an earlier death, according to new data published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. The drugs, sometimes prescribed to those with Alzheimer’s disease to curb insomnia and reduce anxiety, are associated with earlier death rates when compared to Alzheimer’s patients not taking the drugs.
The cohort study examined data from more than 31,000 Finnish people with Alzheimer’s, most of whom were women in their 80s. Benzos in the study included Valium, Xanax, Librium, Ativan, Restoril and Serax. Those who were taking one or more benzos were 41 percent more likely to die than those who took none, with the highest risk being within the first four months of taking the drug.
In general, benzos also are known to elevate risk for hip fractures, stroke and pneumonia, the authors noted.
The study also included analysis of the benzodiazepine-related drug (“Z” drug) Ambien, which showed no association to increased risk.
While the study noted a higher mortality rate among those who took the drugs, the actual cause of death was not noted, the study authors stressed.
The study is part of a growing body of research targeting the risks of unnecessary prescriptions and the unusual effects that can be experienced by older adults and those with cognitive decline.
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