Anxiety Medications and Alzheimer’s
Anxiety and insomnia are relatively common disorders, especially with increasing age. For decades, Western medicine has had several valuable prescription drugs that have been effective in treating these types of conditions. However, like most things, we find out after several decades that these trusted therapies may have unintended negative side effects over the long-term. It often takes many years for the true long-term effects of medications to be seen, making it impossible to know the long-term side effects of medications that have only been around for a few decades.
The most commonly used prescription medications to treat insomnia and anxiety belong to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, commonly abbreviated as BDZ’s. These medications are easily identified by their generic drug names because they typically end with the same letters, “-zepam” (diazepam, lorazepam, oxazepam, temazepam, etc.) with some exceptions.
As mentioned before, these medications are effective and have been the standard of care for a long time, however they are not without short and long-term side effects. All of the BDZ medications are included on a list of drugs deemed to be hazardous or potentially inappropriate for use in people over 65 years of age by the American Geriatrics Society. Drugs on this list, called the “Beer’s Criteria,” should only be used selectively, on a short-term basis, and under close medical supervision in people over age 65 or otherwise determined to be at high risk of adverse effects. The warning from the Beer’s Criteria reads as follows:
Avoid benzodiazepines (any type) for treatment of insomnia, agitation, or delirium. Older adults have increased sensitivity to benzodiazepines and decreased metabolism of long-acting agents. In general, all benzodiazepines increase risk of cognitive impairment, delirium, falls, fractures, and motor vehicle accidents in older adults.
These drugs are also associated with the development of tolerance and possibly addiction over long-term use, leading to ever increasing doses and difficulty discontinuing the medication.1
A study published in the BMJ has raised additional concern with the use of BDZ’s in the elderly, linking their use to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The study looked at people over age 66 that had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and had also used BDZ’s at least 5 years prior to their diagnosis. This group was compared to a group of people in the same age demographics that were not diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the study results showed a definite link between the use of benzodiazepines and eventual diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease.2
The authors of the study point out that it is unclear from this study whether the BDZ medications themselves cause Alzheimer’s disease. They speculate that the development of insomnia or anxiety that would result in a DZ prescription could actually be early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. For example, early warning signs like changes in mood and personality, confusion with time and place, and problems with speaking or writing words could potentially contribute to anxiety resulting in the prescribing of BDZ’s. Regardless, there is no question that there are risks associated with the long-term use of BDZ medications and studies are adding to the list of potential long-term effects.
In contrast, there are ingredients found naturally in our diets that have been shown to not only help ease symptoms of anxiety and insomnia, but to also protect the brain and reduce the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.3–7 Humans have safely been consuming these nutrients for thousands of years contributing to a wealth of knowledge about their long-term safety and efficacy. Some of these nutrients found in the Viniferamine Nutritional Supplements including Mood Support, Brain Health, and Sleep Support are:
- Green Tea Extract8,9
- Grapevine Extract / trans-resveratrol10–12
- Curcumin (from turmeric)13–16
- Vitamin D26–28
- Vitamin B1229–31
There is no doubt that BDZ drugs are highly effective and hold a valuable place in therapy for some patients. However, as we learn more about both the short-term and long-term effects of these medications, it becomes more clear that many people may benefit from the use of safer alternatives such as the Viniferamine Support Supplements.
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