Study Suggest Strong Links between Xanax Use and Alzheimer’s

Older adults who use Xanax or other benzodiazepines may be increasing their risk of developing Alzheimer’s, according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). Alzheimer’s is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that is reportedly the most common cause of dementia. Taking into account the broad impact of dementia as “the main cause of dependency in older people and a major public health concern,” as well as the prevalence of use among elderly populations ranging “from 7% to 43%” in developed countries, the study explored the possible link between the use of benzodiazepines and developing Alzheimers. The findings of the study fall in line with a 2012 report by the same researchers which suggested a link between taking anti-anxiety medications from the same class of drugs and developing dementia.

Xanax (alprazolam) is a medication prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and insomnia. It is a member of the benzodiazepines class of drugs which also includes Valium.

The study, which included 8,980 elderly people over the age of 66, focused on 1,796 people already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s over a six year period and compared them with 7,184 control subjects. The participants were selected randomly among older people living in Quebec, Canada who were also members of the public drug plan from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2009. Data was collected from an administrative claims database for prescription and medical services records.

The study found that among those patients who had used benzodiazepines in the past, the risk of Alzheimer’s was increased by 43-51%. In addition, the findings suggested that the greater the use and also the use of more “long acting” benzodiazepines further increased the risk.

While the study does not conclusively rule out other possible contributing factors in developing Alzheimer’s, it does show a “dose-effect” relation between using drugs like Xanax and an increased risk in Alzheimer’s disease in older patients whose treatment last for more than three months. Based on the findings of the study the researchers conclude that in accord with already established guidelines, use of these drugs should not last more than three months. Nevertheless, as the study notes, these findings should raise public health concerns especially for older patients who use drugs like Xanax chronically or in large doses.

Zachary Mayberry, student intern Jacoby and Meyers.