Study Looks at Links Between Anxiety Disorders, Benzodiazepines, Dementia

Benzodiazepines and anxiety disorders are linked to dementia risk, but no additional risk is seen for benzodiazepines in patients with anxiety disorders.

HealthDay News Benzodiazepines and anxiety disorders are associated with dementia risk, but for patients with anxiety disorders, no additional risk is seen with benzodiazepine use, according to a study published online July 28 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Jay A. Brieler, M.D., from the St. Louis University School of Medicine, and colleagues conducted a retrospective cohort study using electronic health data from 2014 to 2021 for 72,496 participants, aged 65 years or older, who were free of dementia for 2 years prior to the index date. Six percent of the patients had a diagnosis of anxiety and 3.6% received sustained benzodiazepine prescriptions (at least 2 separate prescription orders in any 6-month period).

Researchers identified 6,640 incident dementia events. After controlling for confounders, both a diagnosis of anxiety and sustained benzodiazepine use were associated with incident dementia in patients aged 65 to 75 years. After controlling for confounding, anxiety disorder with sustained benzodiazepine use was not associated with incident dementia compared with anxiety disorder alone. When limiting the sample to those aged 75 years and older, the results were not significant.

“This study provides no evidence whether benzodiazepines increase or decrease risk for dementia among patients with anxiety disorders,” the authors write. “While benzodiazepines should be used with caution in older patients due to increased risk of falls and impairment of cognitive function, careful discussions with patients are essential to weighing all risks and quality of life factors.”

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