Drugs may double dementia risk

  • 29 Sep 2012
  • Reading time 2 mins
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Benzodiazepine sleeping and anti-anxiety pills such as temazapam and diazepam may double dementia risk, according to research published in the British Medical Journal. But they are not the only drugs to be concerned about. Antacid proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), statins and the diabetes drug metformin, have the potential to accelerate memory loss.

Alzheimer's and dementia risk from taking drugs can only be discovered in long-term studies. While some drugs, such as statins, can cause short-term memory loss - this is now a statutory warning in the US - the long-term effects of drugs on dementia needs researching. This BMJ study on benzodiazepines followed users, versus non-users, over 15 years and found roughly a doubling of risk. Benzos are more addictive than heroin after less than a month of use .It is a scandal that some doctors still prescribe them at all when there are other safer ways to deal with insomnia and anxiety (see my Special Report).

An estimate 1.5 million people in Britain take benzodiazepines, many because they have become addicted and can't get off them. PPI antacid drugs are especially worrying because they knock out B12, which raises homocysteine, which increases Alzheimer's risk. So too does metformin, the most common diabetes drug. While one might hope that the benefits of controlling diabetes might outweigh the negative effect of decreasing B12 absorption one study does show a trend to increased Alzheimer's risk with metformin. Other drugs that decrease B12 include diuretics, used to control blood pressure. Again, one would hope the positive effect of decreasing blood pressure would mitigate the risk induced by drug-induced excretion of key B vitamins, but who knows? More long-term research is definitely needed. These drugs, in combination, are widely used and that is why it makes much more sense to employ nutritional medicine, with nothing but beneficial side-effects, rather than pharmacological medicine, to treat common health problems.