Patients taking benzodiazepines have more than a threefold increased risk of developing dementia, shows a long-term UK epidemiological study.
Welsh researchers followed more than 1,100 men over 22 years and found 9% of them took benzodiazepines regularly at some point during the study.
Those patients had a 3.5 increased risk of developing dementia compared with those who did not take benzodiazepines. This level of risk remained when researchers adjusted to take account of factors such as psychological distress.
The researchers concluded that a causal effect would be ‘alarming’, although this could not be proven by the study. They added the results suggested the effect may be limited to a susceptible subgroup rather than being widespread.
The researchers, from the University of Cardiff, concluded: ‘Whether benzodiazepines are an iatrogenic cause of dementia or a biomarker for dementia risk is unclear.
‘These findings indicate that great care should be taken upon beginning benzodiazepines with middle-aged and older people.’