Learn How This One Thing Increases Your Risk of Alzheimer’s by 51%
Check Your Medicine Cabinet for These Drugs
The following are all benzodiazepines that are now linked to an increase risk of Alzheimer’s and other health concerns.
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Diazepam (known as Valium)
- Lorazepam (known as Ativan)
Also Be On the Alert for Z Drugs
Medicines called zaleplon, zolpidem, and zoplicone are commonly called the Z drugs. Strictly speaking, Z drugs are not benzodiazepines but are another class of medicine that act in a similar way to benzodiazepines. They have a similar effect on the brain cells and have similar long-term usage problems as benzodiazepines.
Although use of these drugs has declined in recent years, they are still one of the most widely prescribed drugs in Canada. About four million prescriptions are filled annually in Ontario alone.
At any one time, an estimated 1.5 million people in the UK, mainly the over-65s, are taking benzodiazepines.
In the United States, there are 44 million prescriptions written each year for Xanax (alprazolam), the most of any benzodiazepine. It is the eighth-most prescribed drug in the country.
How Do They Work? And Why Are They Being Prescribed?
Benzodiazepines are tranquillizers that work by suppressing the central nervous system. They were first marketed in the 1960s as a safer alternative to barbiturates, quickly becoming a popular treatment for everything from insomnia to alcohol withdrawal to the stresses of everyday life.
But by the 1980s, warnings about dependence and serious side-effects began to surface.
Other Reasons Besides Alzheimer’s to Avoid Benzodiazepines
Researchers, academics and clinicians have been warning about the dangers of benzodiazepines for decades.
Adverse reaction reports filed to Health Canada document wide-ranging risks, including memory loss, over-sedation and suicidal thoughts.
Benzodiazepines can cause death if taken in large quantities or if mixed with other drugs or alcohol. Four of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines – lorazepam, alprazolam, clonazepam and diazepam – have been implicated in nearly 200 deaths in the past decade.
This is likely a conservative number, as experts estimate that only 3 to 5 per cent of adverse reactions are reported.
These medications can cause birth defects in an unborn baby.
Although these medications are taken to help people get a good night’s rest, they can have the opposite effect. When they’re taken over time, they can actually interfere with normal sleep. Then the quest to sleep through the night can lead to prescriptions for higher doses or longer-lasting benzodiazepines—and even greater side effects.
In 2012, the American Geriatrics Society added benzodiazepines to their list of inappropriate medications for treating insomnia, agitation, or delirium. That decision was made primarily because common side-effects of benzodiazepines—confusion and clouded thinking—often have disastrous consequences, including falls, fractures, and auto accidents.
Even short-acting benzodiazepines pack a bigger punch in older people. As the body’s metabolism slows with age, drugs take longer to clear. And because benzodiazepines are stored in body fat, they can continue to produce effects days after people stop taking them.
Don’t Quit Cold Turkey
These drugs were intended for short term use. However, if you’ve been using them regularly for more than a few weeks, don’t just quit cold turkey as withdrawal symptoms can be powerful.
From Wikipedia “Benzodiazepine withdrawal is characterized by sleep disturbance, irritability, increased tension and anxiety, panic attacks, hand tremor, sweating, difficulty with concentration, confusion and cognitive difficulty, memory problems, dry retching and nausea, weight loss, palpitations, headache, muscular pain and stiffness, a host of perceptual changes, hallucinations, seizures psychosis and suicide. Further, these symptoms are notable for the manner in which they wax and wane and vary in severity from day to day or week by week instead of steadily decreasing in a straightforward monotonic manner.”
If you are taking the drugs for sleep issues, please refer back to the following newsletters
- The Sleep Mineral
- Cortisol and the Chain Reaction
- Low Serotonin: Causes More Than Just Sleep Issues
- The Nutrient Approach for Raising Serotonin
- Rebalancing Your Sleep Rhythm with Melatonin
Given that these drugs work by enhancing the effects of a certain natural chemical in the body called GABA, why not use the natural form instead? (available from our online store HERE)
If you are taking any of these drugs for anxiety, I highly recommend referencing our e-manual “Great Moods and Happiness” available HERE. This e-manual includes information on how to use GABA.
Too Many Risks and Not Enough Rewards
It Is Easier to Prevent Alzheimer ’s Disease Than It is to Treat It
There’s currently no cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. That makes prevention all the more important. Limiting the use of a benzodiazepine for anxiety or sleep troubles may be one of the many steps toward prevention.
Please Pass Along the News
If you know anyone that takes or is considering taking the benzodiazepines please pass along this newsletter.
Yours in Total Health,
Brenda Eastwood, RNCP
Author and Women’s Health Specialist