Millions of Americans who experience anxiety or insomnia turn to prescription medication for help.  A popular class of drugs used to treat anxiety and insomnia, benzodiazepines, may be causing more problems than it helps.

A new study links benzodiazepines with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, the incurable neurodegenerative disease.  The large class of medications, which includes Xanax and Valium, is strongly correlated with Alzheimer’s when taken for three months or longer.  Longer periods of use, or use of the long-acting versions, increase the risk even more!

More than 36 million people around the world are struggling with Alzheimer’s.  With limited information on a possible cause and no sign of a cure, that number is expected to triple by 2050.

This possible connection isn’t new, either.  In 2012, based on their association with unwanted cognitive side effects, the American Geriatrics Society added benzodiazepines to its list of drugs inappropriate for older adults.  Despite these concerns, many adults continue to take these drugs for extended periods of time.

In our practice I discuss the 5 Keys to Health: Eat Well, Move Well, Think Well, Sleep Well, and a Well-Functioning Nervous System.  For those of us who struggle with mental health or sleep health, medication may provide a short-term support but should never be relied upon as the primary approach.