This week a new study by Dr. Shelly Gray from the University of Washington was published in the prestigious American medical journal JAMA showing a possible increased risk to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s from drugs that have anticholinergic effects. Amongst those are commonly used drugs such as
- Antihistamines (allergies/sleep)
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Antimuscarinics (incontinence)
- Benzodiazepines (anxiety/sleep)
In 2012 French lead researcher Sophie Billioti de Gage of the University of Bordeaux, France already published a paper in the prestigious British medical journal BMJ linking the long-term use of common drugs to treat anxiety and sleep problems (benzodiazepines) to an increased risk to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s.
A Canadian study looking at adults, 65 years or older, taking benzodiazepines for three months or more showed an increased risk of developing dementia of 51%.
According to NHS guidelines this class of drugs should only be used for 8 – 12 weeks at most. Yet, many adults consume benzodiazepines for far longer, often years.
Dr. Billioti de Gage concluded that Considering the extent to which benzodiazepines are prescribed and the number of potential adverse effects of this drug class in the general population, indiscriminate widespread use should be cautioned against.
The researchers say doctors and pharmacists might want to take a precautionary approach and offer different treatments instead. And when there is no alternative, they could give the lowest dose for the shortest time possible.
Chinese medicine treats sleep problems, allergies, anxiety, depression, and even certain types of incontinence safe and effectively. If you know someone who has been taking these types of medications for longer periods please inform them of possible risks and encourage them to speak to their physicians about possible alternatives.