Could taking insomnia medication increase your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease?
The answer remains unclear, and here's why!
The debate around this question began in 2014 with the publication of a study in the British Medical Journal.
The Canadian team behind this study reviewed the case of 10,000 people, 1,800 of whom were suffering from the disease. They uncovered an interesting correlation.
According to the researchers’ statistical analysis, taking benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Valium, or Xanax increased the participants’ odds of developing Alzheimer's disease by up to 50%.
These results were contradicted by another study published by an American team in the same journal last year.
The US team followed the cases of 3,400 individuals who had no symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease at the beginning of the study. Seven years later, one-quarter of them had developed the disease, but no correlation with the use of benzodiazepine drugs could be established.
So where is the truth?
Well, the question remains unanswered. Both studies have their strengths and weaknesses.
Moreover, studies like theses cannot establish a causal link between two events. They can only establish statistical correlations.
Therefore, if benzodiazepines could increase the risk of Alzheimer's, the reverse is also possible.
In fact, researchers have suggested the possibility that early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, such as anxiety and insomnia, may lead people to use benzodiazepines, which could explain the correlation the Canadian researchers found.
To make the story even more complicated, it might even be possible for both statements to be true, namely, that taking benzodiazepines is both a common response to early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and that it also increases the odds of developing the disease.
Further studies will therefore need to be performed to answer this question.