ISLAMABAD: Taking sleeping pills for over three months increases a person’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s by over 51%.
Taking prescribed drugs to treat anxiety and insomnia is associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, particularly for long- term users, BBC health reported.
The researchers warn that unwarranted long-term use should be considered a public health concern.
Dementia currently affects about 36 million people worldwide and this number is expected to double every 20 years, reaching 115 million by 2015.
A team of researchers based in France and Canada set out to investigate the relationship between the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and exposure over a several years, as well as a potential dose-response relationship.
Over a period of at least six years, they identified 1,796 cases of Alzheimer’s disease. They then compared each case with 7,184 healthy people matched for age, sex, and duration of follow-up.
Results show that past use of benzodiazepines for three months or more was associated with an increased risk (up to 51%) of Alzheimer’s disease.
The strength of association increased with longer exposure and with use of long-acting benzodiazepines rather than short-acting ones.
They conclude that their findings are of “major importance for public health, especially considering the prevalence and chronicity of benzodiazepine use in elderly populations and the high and increasing incidence of dementia in developed countries.
Yet almost 50% of older adults continue to use these drugs, they say.
And without any formal monitoring system, the potential long term consequences on brain health are likely to be missed, adding to the growing prevalence of cognitive impairment among older people, they suggest.