A recent research study conducted by the University of Eastern Finland found that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease may have an increase in mortality of 40% when using benzodiazepines. These findings were recently published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
Increased risk of mortality with benzodiazepine use:
Researchers found that the risk of death was increased at the baseline or initiation of use with these drugs (benzodiazepines) which includes such medications as Ativan, Valium and Xanax. Increased mortality was believed to be from adverse events that seem to derive directly from the use of these medications such as injuries related to falling down such as hip fractures as well as from stroke and pneumonia.
The research was conducted on persons diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in Finland during 2005 and 2011. Individuals who had used benzodiazepines prior to the research study were excluded from the research population including 10,380 new users of these medications. They were compared to the control group of 20,760 subjects who did not use these medications.
Although many treatment guidelines recommend nonpharmacological treatments as opposed to medications for first-line treatment of anxiety, insomnia and agitation, these medications continue to be somewhat routinely prescribed. If benzodiazepines seem to be necessary for patients with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, it is recommended that they only be used on a short-term basis. These research findings encourage a more reflective approach to the use of benzodiazepines among patients with dementia and a consideration of the increased risk of mortality.
Information adapted by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist from “Benzodiazepines increase mortality in persons with Alzheimer’s disease”. (Published November 20, 2017 ScienceDaily)
Materials provided by University of Eastern Finland. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Laura Saarelainen, Anna-Maija Tolppanen, Marjaana Koponen, Antti Tanskanen, Jari Tiihonen, Sirpa Hartikainen, Heidi Taipale. Risk of death associated with new benzodiazepine use among persons with Alzheimer disease: A matched cohort study. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2017; DOI: 10.1002/gps.4821