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Side Effects of Xanax, Valium, Others May Be Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Written by: Irvin Jackson
  • 18 Comments

Long-term use of popular insomnia and anxiety drugs, such as Xanax, Valium, Ativan and others, may increase the risk of dementia later in life, according to the findings of new research. 

In a study published this week by the British Medical Journal, French and Canadian researchers indicate that the popular class of drugs known as benzodiazepines were associated with a 50% greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers conducted a case control study using data on about 9,000 people from the Quebec health insurance program database, looking at 1,796 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease over a six year period and comparing them with 7,184 control subjects. All of those involved in the study were over the age of 66 and living between 2000 and 2009.

The study found that those taking the drugs were 51% more likely to experience memory-deteriorating condition. Some dose-specific responses were found, as long-acting drugs carried a 70% increased risk while drugs with a shorter half-life increased the risk by an average of just 43%.

“Benzodiazepine use is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The stronger association observed for long term exposures reinforces the suspicion of a possible direct association, even if benzodiazapine use might also be an early marker of a condition associated with an increased risk of dementia,” the researchers concluded. “Unwarranted long term use of these drugs should be considered as a public health concern.”

Dementia Risk Found in Previous Study

The findings come about two years after the same team of researchers published a report in the British Medical Journal which also linked benzodiazepine use to an increased risk of dementia.

Researchers found that almost a quarter of patients developed dementia after being given the drugs. Similarly, they estimated that users of the drugs faced a 50% greater risk of dementia than their peers.

Benzodiazepines are a group of drugs known as central nervous system depressants, which are used as sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs used to treat a wide array of illnesses including insomnia, seizures, muscle spasms and anxiety.

The group of anti-anxiety, sedative drugs is widely prescribed in more than 65 countries. In France more than 30 percent of people over the age of 65 use benzodiazepines. This class of drug was first marketed in the U.S. in 1963 as diazepam, also known as Valium.  Current brands of BZD include Xanax, Ativan, Niravam, Paxal and Klonopin.

Common side effects of benzodiazepine include dizziness, drowsiness, hypotension, nausea, blurred vision and increased dependence of the drug if used continually, in spite of the common recommendation not to use the drug for more than a several weeks. Many experts warn against prescription of the drugs for the elderly due to many of the common side effects, such as dizziness and drowsiness, which may lead to a higher occurrence of serious falls.

Other cognitive side effects from benzodiazepines are highly debated in the medical community, with many researchers agreeing the drugs affect areas of cognition, can cause amnesia, and can interfere with the formation of long-term memories.

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18 comments

  1. Rusty Reply

    I can’t remember nothing what happened yesterday or last year or nothing at all I can’t remember who calls me and no phone numbers at all

  2. Wayne Reply

    During my detox of valium more than 6 months I was without the sense of smell, no taste., feeling numb, terrible loss of memory, ringing in ears , panic attacks, heart would almost stop, hand tremors, stomach ache, and a lot more especially mental issues, sweating all day, depression, agitation, nervous, an more

  3. Erin Reply

    I was prescribed xanex for 5 years (i never abused them) and suffered seizureistic episodes (locking up and violent spasming), my blood pressure would plummet. After reading several articles and i now know that these drugs are only supposed to be taken for 2 weeks at most. Again, 5 years. I asked my doctors if i could stop and they told me no. My one doctor was a narcoleptic and frequently fell asleep in our sessions while the other watched me having an episode in front of him and said it was nothing, and caused by stress. Finally, a doctor told me that in order to come off of these drugs i had to go into detox. I did exactly that. It has been six months since i have been off Xanex and all antidepressants and my brain function is very slow. I often come across as being mentally retarded and NEVER has that been the case before. I’ve lost jobs and have a hard time focusing on menial tasks. I get confused and dizzy, my muscles spasm/twitch to where i appear to suffer from turrets syndrome. I have had testibf done by neurologists (EEG, Brain Scans, etc) and all have come back clear. Theses medications have destroyed me. I have little to no faith in the medical field and on top of that I have learned that these side effects could be life long. I need help. These doctors and drug companies need to learn that what they are doing to people is wrong. I am looking into a law suit against xanex and possibly the doctors whom I feel I have been abused by. However I am finding it hard to locate an attorney who will take on a Product Liability case. Any direction that can be provided would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  4. Anonymous Reply

    On Xanax for many years never told of the side effects nor dangers. Impaired judgment, memory lapses, lose things and more.

  5. Elizabeth Reply

    My Dr. has prescribed Xanax for over 20 years with the dose increasing with m tolerance. I am now on .5mg Xanax XR four times a day. My Dr. retired due to health issues, he’s in his 50s. My new Dr.says I must get off this medication. If I miss a dose I have extreme hostility and my heart feels like it will. Explode. If I have to go to treatment, who will pay? I don’t need to lose my job over this. I am terrified that I will lose everything.

  6. Connie Reply

    Been prescribed zanax for five years.always confused losing keys purse etc.when. I didn’t have insurance anymore could not get scripts had several blackouts and seizures. Have a terrible memory and am only fifty six. I feel there is no chance to regain memory.

  7. Mariela Reply

    I was given xanax by 2 different doctors over 10 yrs started on low dose gradully went uo to 6 mg a day.was never told of any sidd effects. I cant remember barely anything from one day to the next or what was said to me half hour ago. Or the days dates etc.also blurred vision its been a yr ive been off i think a yr ive been off and my memory has not changed.i would like to speak to a lawyer

  8. Emily Reply

    Xanax put me in a manic state, I left my husband and two kids, my job, career, and everything. I can’t remember what happens during the day. I found an attorney who wants to look into it, many of them did not want or think that there is a claim. Has anyone experienced this? My life has been ruined.

  9. Janis Reply

    I was prescribed diazapam for 15 years. About four or five years ago I began loosing my memory. I went to a new doctor who was shocked that I wasn’t advised of long term side effects of use. I now am off the med but will never have my memory like before. I had a great high paying job and am now on disability with about a third of my income. I suffer with anxiety now from my body still wanting valuim. It has pretty much destroyed my life…

  10. Michael Reply

    I was prescribed Xanax for 10 years. It allowed me to function both socially and at work. When my insurance changed I had to switch doctors and the new doctor cut me off cold turkey. I have severe memory problems but I feel like there are the result of not having relief from my anxiety. I barely left my house for over year and now I’m facing foreclosure. At least when I had access to the Xanax I could face the world

  11. Jaquelyn Reply

    My daughter has been on xanax for 15years and the medication has done quite a job in destroying her entire life. It has caused her to lose her 2 sons,her husband, her car and her home(evicted after a xanax stupor causing a flood.)She now has trouble with speech,pronouncing certain words,impulsive behavior and her memory is so impaired she is now on disability. Xanax has taken everything. The only thing left for it to take is her life….and it’s working on that!

  12. William Reply

    iv’e been on zanax for over 6yrs dealing with memory lapse and lose
    its been very difficult for my family to deal with. i forget important events miss appointments or just having a conversation with them is hard,they don’t understand how i could forget something as important as a wedding or a birthday.the one that gets to me the most is when my son says dad remember when, and i just have to agree because i can’t recall that memory. i was never told that would happen.how do i get those memories back?

  13. Mike Reply

    My mother has been on Xanax for over 10 years now, from several different Doctors. Not one ever said it could produce Dementia, which she now has, and her current Doctor wants her off of it NOW! I can list at least 4 Doctors who gave her refills of this drug and can document everything. There is no one else in the family on either side who has ever had Dementia. I want to sue ALL of the Doctors who gave her this drug for far too long. You can have 50% or more of the awards won, I don’t care about that, but these “Doctors” need to be punished for what they have done to her.

  14. Kaitlin Reply

    Hello I am having this issue with medications and I’ve been looking for somebody to talk to if you can please email me I would appreciate that thank you so much for your time kindest regards

  15. KENNETH Reply

    I’ve been taking Klopin from the same doctor for 18 years for anxiety and panic attacks. Now I’m suffering from blurred vision and dizziness.

  16. Stephanie Reply

    I’ve been on Xanax for 10 years now. At my recent Dr. Appointment he told me that he would be taking me off Xanax because it is causing problems with people’s brains…causing memory loss! Since I’ve been taking them I can’t remember..I lose my things constantly..I’ve been getting dizzy spells for quite some time now..not to mention other symptoms that are associated with this drug..I wasn’t ever informed by my Dr’s of any of these horrible side affects from the use of Xanax ..now I’m advised that I shouldn’t be taking it what the hell is going on with the damn companies all they care about is making money..and don’t give a damn what these drugs are doing to people who have been on them Shame on all of you. If they start a lawsuit what good is it gonna do the damage is done. But these drug companies will have to pay if all the people who have been damaged by these drugs raise enough hell and stand up for themselves. Now my future is ruined because of Xanax because of the people including my Dr’s didn’t inform me and the drug companies that made this dangerous drug. They all need to pay.

  17. Jessica Reply

    Erin,

    Your comments above are dead on and represent a paradigm of concerns I seriously doubt will yield favorable results. Did your muscles stop twitching?

    Thank you for your candid information!

  18. Greg Reply

    Hello I write everybody’s comments on this page and it’s all the same. I’ve been taking Xanax for about 17 years. We all know the symptoms and the horrors of coming off the drug so I won’t bend your ear with the details. As of 2001 within six months I start feeling the withdrawal effects the dizziness the added anxiety Etc. I’ve constantly turned to the internet for help and found very little info. It wasn’t till about 2014 that I actually seen negative reports about the drug. 2015-2016 there was talk of lawsuits. Am I a grubbing seeking money person no. The drug has ruined my life how does one put a price on one’s life. I’ve lost everything including a wife and three beautiful daughters who are well informed of their fathers brain damage central nervous system damage and the fact that he had a toxic reaction to his medication and is no longer the same person he once was. I am merely seeking compensation for my children for the fact that they were without a father for almost 20 years. I’m now 50 years old I’ve lived a good life although I don’t remember the last 20 years lol. Yeah you have to laugh because if you don’t you’re going to go insane or you’re going to take your own life that’s the hell in a bottle . Xanax . I have finally gained some consultants in the fact that I am not alone and these doctors and big pharm companies will eventually be held accountable maybe not in my lifetime but eventually the truth will come out. Anyone out there I implore you feel free to contact me to discuss the horrible nightmare and the hell we have been living through.

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