Sleeping Pills May Lead To Dementia
September 28, 2012

Sleeping Pills May Lead To Dementia For Some

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Researchers are warning that taking sleeping pills may significantly increase your risk of developing dementia later in life.

A Harvard University study found that those who used benzodiazepines were 50% more likely to succumb to the condition.

During the study, researchers involved 1,063 men and women over the age of 65 for a period of 20 years in southwest France.

At the onset of the study, none of the participants had dementia, and no one was taking benzodiazepines, such as temazepam and diazepam.

The researchers followed the participants after 15 years and found 253 had developed dementia.

They found out of the 100 not taking the drug, 3.2 would be expected to experience the condition. However, out of the 100 patients who were taking the drugs, 4.8 would get dementia.

Those patients who had taken the pills took them at least once over the course of a week or so at some point in the previous 15 years.

"Considering the extent to which benzodiazepines are prescribed and the number of potential adverse effects, indiscriminate widespread use should be cautioned against," the authors wrote in the British Medical Journal.

For the past 20 years, the number of prescriptions for benzodiazepines has dropped by 40% due to concerns patients were becoming addicted. However, the drugs still remain one of the most commonly used and there are fears some patients are taking them for far too long.

"This is the not the first time it has been suggested that these drugs could have a negative impact on cognition. With this long-term study adding to the evidence, it emphasizes how important it is we properly monitor how treatments for anxiety or sleep problems are used," a spokesman for the Alzheimer´s Society said in a statement.

Cardiff University performed a study last year that found participants who had used the pills were 60% more at risk for dementia.

Another study found patients taking between four and 18 pills a year were 3.6 times more likely to die prematurely. Those on more than 132 pills a year were 5.3 times more likely to die.

Professor Tobias Kurth, who works jointly at Harvard University´s School of Public Health and the University of Bordeaux, said there is potential that these drugs are harmful.

"If it is really true that these drugs are causing dementia that will be huge. But one single study does not necessarily show everything that is going on, so there is no need to panic," Kurth said in a statement. "These drugs certainly have their benefits and if you prescribe them in a way they should be prescribed they treat very well."