Recent studies have suggested a link between benzodiazepine use and dementia in elderly populations. However, a new study refutes those findings, suggesting no link, even at high dose. In a prospective, population-based study, 3434 adults ≥ 65 years of age without dementia were followed for an average of 7.3 years. Researchers performed standard cognitive studies every 2 years and evaluated benzodiazepine prescriptions from pharmacy records. About 23% of patients developed dementia. For dementia, the adjusted hazard ratios associated with cumulative benzodiazepine use compared with non-use were 1.25 (95% confidence interval [CI];1.03-1.51) for low dose, 1.31 (CI, 1.00-1.71) for moderate dose, and 1.07 (CI, 0.82-1.39) for high dose. There was no difference when Alzheimer’s disease was compared to other dementias. The authors concluded that the risk of dementia is slightly higher in people with minimal exposure to benzodiazepines but not with the highest level of exposure. These results do not support a causal association between benzodiazepine use and dementia. (BMJ 2016;352:i90) This study did not evaluate other significant adverse effects of these drugs in the elderly, including short-term cognitive changes and fall risk.
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