Common Benzo Drugs like Valium and Ativan Don’t Increase Dementia Risk, New Study Finds

A new study finds no link between benzodiazepines and dementia, but these drugs—commonly prescribed for anxiety, insomnia and epilepsy—may speed up loss of brain volume, researchers say.

Benzodiazepine drugs do not increase the risk of dementia, according to a new study.

But researchers say they  may be associated with an accelerated loss of brain volume.

The most common benzos include Valium, Xanax, Halcion, Ativan and Klonopin, which are often prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia and epilepsy.

Researchers analyzed health and pharmacy data from 54-hundred adults, half of whom had used the drugs. They found no significant link between benzodiazepine use and dementia, regardless of the type or amount taken over time.

However, MRI brain scans showed an association between the drugs and an accelerated loss of volume in the hippocampus and amygdala -- regions involved in memory and mood. Changes in white matter, which transmits nerve signals, were also noted.

The authors say while  benzodiazepines may not cause dementia, they may have subtle, long-term effects on brain structure and health.

They say these findings support current guidelines cautioning against long-term benzodiazepine prescription.

Source: BMC Medicine

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