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Old Doctors, Old Drugs?

Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, Xanax and other benzodiazepines are dementia risks. Approved in the 1960s, doctors still prescribe them. Patients still ask for them, even for ailments with newer, safer, more effective treatments. Get the facts and get better treatment.


Researchers and doctors are encouraging patients to review treatment options to improve treatment and reduce risks connected to common benzodiazepines.

Transitioning to the Newest Drugs

Patients taking benzodiazepines to treat psychiatric conditions should consider transitioning to other therapies because of heightened risks for dementia and death, according to clinicians from the American College of Osteopathic Neurologists and Psychiatrists.

Benzodiazepines include branded prescription drugs like:

  1. Valium
  2. Ativan
  3. Klonopin
  4. Xanax.

This class of drug received FDA approval in the 1960s and was believed to be a safer alternative to barbiturates.

Old Ailments, New Treatments

Despite new psychiatric protocols, some physicians continue to prescribe benzodiazepines as a primary treatment for:

  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • obsessive compulsive disorder
  • agitation
  • delirium
  • other ailments.

A growing body of research indicates this practice could greatly increase patients’ risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, according to Helene Alphonso, DO, Director of Osteopathic Medical Education at North Texas University Health Science Center.

What to Do

“Current research is extremely clear and physicians need to partner with their patients to move them into therapies, like anti-depressants, that are proven to be safer and more effective,” said Dr. Alphonso, a board-certified psychiatrist practicing in Fort Worth. “Due to a shortage of mental health professionals in rural and underserved areas, we see primary care physicians using this class of drugs to give relief to their patients with psychiatric symptoms. While compassionate, it’s important to understand that a better long-term strategy is needed.”

Dr. Alphonso will review current treatment protocols, outpatient benzodiazepine detox strategies and alternative anxiety treatments at OMED 15, to be held October 17-21 in Orlando. OMED is the annual medical education conference of the American Osteopathic Association.

6 Month Impact

A Canadian review of 9,000 patients found those who had taken a benzodiazepine for three months or less had about the same dementia risk as those who had never taken one. Taking the drug for three to six months raised the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 32 percent, and taking it for more than six months boosted the risk by 84 percent. Similar results were found by French researchers studying more than 1,000 elderly patients.

The case for limiting the use of benzodiazepines is particularly strong for patients 65 and older, who are more susceptible to falls, injuries, accidental overdose and death when taking the drugs. The American Geriatric Society in 2012 labeled the drugs “inappropriate” for treating insomnia, agitation or delirium because of those risks.

First-Line Therapy

“It’s imperative to transition older patients because we’re seeing a very strong correlation between use of benzodiazepines and development of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. While correlation certainly isn’t causation, there’s ample reason to avoid this class of drugs as a first-line therapy,” Dr. Alphonso said.

MORE INFORMATION:

    About OMED 15

    OMED 15 is the American Osteopathic Association’s five-day medical education event offering clinical and research updates in 15 specialties, with an emphasis on osteopathic principles and practices.

    The osteopathic philosophy of medicine takes a whole person approach to prevention, diagnosis and treatment, giving its practitioners a distinct model for clinical problem solving and patient education. OMED welcomes all health care professionals– including MDs, nurse practitioners and physician assistants–interested in osteopathic medicine’s collaborative approach to increasingly complex medical issues.

    American Osteopathic Association

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July 22, 2018 12:05 pm

It would be helpful to identify the new and more effective drugs.

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P. Berger

This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

It is a place where we separate out the wheat from the chafe, the important articles & videos from each week’s river of news. Google gets a new post on Alzheimer’s or dementia every 7 minutes. That can overwhelm anyone looking for help. This site filters out, focuses on and offers only the best information. it has helped hundreds of thousands of people since it debuted in 2007. Thanks to our many subscribers for your supportive feedback.

The site is dedicated to all those preserving the dignity of the community of people living with dementia.

Peter Berger, Editor

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This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

It is a place where we separate out the wheat from the chafe, the important articles & videos from each week’s river of news. Google gets a new post on Alzheimer’s or dementia every 7 minutes. That can overwhelm anyone looking for help. This site filters out, focuses on and offers only the best information. it has helped hundreds of thousands of people since it debuted in 2007. Thanks to our many subscribers for your supportive feedback.

The site is dedicated to all those preserving the dignity of the community of people living with dementia.

Peter Berger, Editor

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This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

It is a place where we separate out the wheat from the chafe, the important articles & videos from each week’s river of news. Google gets a new post on Alzheimer’s or dementia every 7 minutes. That can overwhelm anyone looking for help. This site filters out, focuses on and offers only the best information. It has helped hundreds of thousands of people since it debuted in 2007. Thanks to our many subscribers for your supportive feedback.

The site is dedicated to all those preserving the dignity of the community of people living with dementia.

Peter Berger, Editor

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