Just a few months ago, I warned you about a class of drugs called benzodiazepines – or BNZs. BNZs are a type of sedative, anti-anxiety drug often used to “calm” Alzheimer’s patients.
At the time, I pointed out several studies showing BNZs boost the risk of several health problems in Alzheimer’s patients, including…
- And death.
Yes, death. BNZs boost Alzheimer’s sufferers’ risk of death by 40%.
A new study from the University of Michigan and its allies brings even more bad news about these dangerous drugs. It’s not just Alzheimer’s patients who are at risk. It’s anyone over age 65.
A Needless Doubling of Danger
Doctors are handing out fewer of these prescriptions to older Americans, but the prescription rate remains high. Especially when you consider the risks.
In adults over 65, BNZ use is linked to a two-fold risk of falls, broken hips, and car accidents. That’s right: Their risk doubles.
Yet, with all these dangers – and the availability of other options – 7.3% of older U.S. veterans have prescriptions for these drugs. And the youngest vets in this study – aged 65 to 74 – had the highest rates of use.
Long-term use of these drugs leads to physical dependence. Yet almost a third of BNZ prescriptions are written for long-term use. Which means getting off the drug may involve the agony of withdrawal.
That’s not a pleasant prospect for someone in their “golden years.”
And then there’s the problem of who’s handing out these drugs.
The “Candyman” Isn’t Who You Think He Is
Anxiety is a psychological issue. So you’d think a mental health professional would be handing out prescriptions for anti-anxiety drugs.
Not in this case. At least not most of the time. It’s not psychiatrists passing out BNZs like they were candy. MDs hand out 9 of every 10 BNZ prescriptions for older adults. And many don’t appear to be playing by the rules.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, BNZs aren’t a “first line of defense.” Rather, therapy and anti-depressants should be used before BNZs are even considered.
For sleep problems – another common use of BNZs for older adults – drugs should never be a first option.
Finally, one last risk linked to BNZs among older adults who don’t suffer with Alzheimer’s disease…
BNZs raise their risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The risk was especially high (up to 84%) with use over 180 days.
As the Michigan researchers note, very few people over 65 should be taking these drugs. For any reason.
If a loved one is taking BNZs ask their doctor why. Point out the American Geriatrics Society lists BNZs as especially risky for older adults. And the American Board of Internal Medicine has developed a list of safer options to risky drugs.
Aging – especially with Alzheimer’s – is hard enough. We shouldn’t be adding the burden of high-risk drugs to their lives.
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
“Progress, but far from perfection, on avoiding risky sedatives in older adults,” University of Michigan. Feb 12, 2018.
“Despite Risks, Benzodiazepine Use Highest in Older People,” National Institute of Mental Health. Dec 17, 2014.
de Gage, B., et al, “Benzodiazepine use and risk of Alzheimer’s disease: case-control study,” BMJ. Sep 9, 2014; 3349: g5205.
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