Benzodiazepines linked to risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Although data showed benzodiazepine and Z drug use was linked to only a 6% increase in the odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease, researchers say their prescribing should be avoided if possible.

Benzodiazepines - Clonazolam pills spilled on table

Benzodiazepines and related drugs (Z drugs) are associated with a modestly increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD), according to the results of a Finnish study[1]

The study, published in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica (online, 31 May 2018), included data on 70,719 people diagnosed with AD between 2005 and 2011 and compared them with 282,862 matched controls without AD. It also looked at benzodiazepine and related drug use since 1995.

The researchers found that use of benzodiazepines and related drugs was associated with a 6% increase in the odds of developing AD. There was a dose–response relationship between benzodiazepine and related drug use and AD risk, but this disappeared when adjusted for other psychotropic use, suggesting that the association could be partially explained by other psychotropics or concomitant use of these medicines.

The team said the findings were important because benzodiazepines were commonly prescribed to older people. The drugs were associated with short-term negative effects on memory and cognition, as well as drowsiness, falls and hip fractures.

“Even though association between [benzodiazepine and related drug] use and AD was modest in this study, [benzodiazepines and related drugs] should be avoided if possible and threshold for prescribing should be high enough due to overall adverse effect profile of the [benzodiazepines and related drugs],” they concluded.


[1] Tapiainen V, Taipale H, Tanskanen A et al. The risk of Alzheimer’s disease associated with benzodiazepines and related drugs: a nested case–control study. Acta Psychiatr Scand 2018;138:91–100. doi: 10.1111/acps.12909

Last updated
Clinical Pharmacist, CP, October 2018, Vol 10, No 10;10(10):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20205526