Prescription pills raise chance of Alzheimers

Prescription sleeping pills taken by more than one million Britons 'can raise chance of developing Alzheimer's by 50%'
• Group of pills, known as benzodiazepines, include temazepam and diazepam
• Patients taking them for more than six months were 80% more at risk
• Researchers say patients should stop taking the drugs after three months
• Some 9.5m prescriptions written out per year for pills, mainly for over-65s
By Sophie Borland, Daily Mail Health Correspondent
Published: 23:23 GMT, 9 September 2014 | Updated: 07:59 GMT, 10 September 2014
Prescription sleeping pills taken by more than a million Britons may cause dementia, research shows.
Those taking a group of tablets known as benzodiazepines are 50 per cent more at risk of Alzheimer's disease.
And patients who had been taking them for more than six months were 80 per cent more at risk.
Those taking a group of tablets known as benzodiazepines are 50 per cent more at risk of Alzheimer's disease
Researchers said patients should be told to stop taking the drugs after three months.
The pills include temazepam and diazepam and are commonly used to treat anxiety and sleeping disorders.
They are being taken by 1.5million Britons at any one time, mainly the over-65s. Some 9.5million prescriptions are written out each year.
French and Canadian researchers studied 8,980 people aged 66 and over, including 1,796 with Alzheimer's. The academics recorded whether they had ever taken benzodiazepines and, if so, how often.

Patients who had been prescribed the drug for any length of time were 51 per cent more likely to get Alzheimer's compared to someone who had never taken them.
But the risk went up the longer patients were on the drug, the study published in the BMJ found.
Those who were on them for three to six months were 32 per cent more likely to get the illness, rising to 84 per cent for more than six months.
The researchers, from the universities of Bordeaux and Montreal, concluded: 'Our study reinforces the suspicion of an increased risk of Alzheimer-type dementia among benzodiazepine users, particularly long-term users.

'Our findings are of major importance for public health, especially considering the prevalence of benzodiazepine use in older people and the high and increasing incidence of dementia in developed countries.'
Benzodiazepines can be obtained only by prescription. They work by changing the way messages are transmitted to the brain, which has a calming effect.
But researchers suspect they also interfere with chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters, which may be causing dementia.
This research backs up work published by Harvard academics in 2012 which also found the pills increase the risk of Alzheimer's by 50 per cent.

What is dementia? Alzheimer's Society explains

Other experts pointed out that sleeping problems and anxiety are often early signs of dementia. Patients would therefore have developed the illness inevitably, even if they had not been prescribed the drugs, they said.
Dr Eric Karran, of Alzheimer's Research UK, said: 'One limitation of this study is that benzodiazepines treat symptoms such as anxiety and sleep disturbance, which may also be early indicators of Alzheimer's disease.
'Benzodiazepines have been shown to cause memory problems as part of their side effects and so it is difficult to tease out cause and effect in studies such as this.'
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said: 'Doctors are already aware of potential risks, so we should not fall into the trap of alarming those for whom benzodiazepines provide relief from intolerable anxiety, insomnia and associated debilitating experiences of panic.
'It is extremely important that people are aware that stopping such drugs suddenly may trigger severe side-effects. We would advise anyone with concerns to speak to their doctor.'

A man who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life. - Charles Darwin

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