A lecture to be presented at the American Osteopathic Association’s Annual Osteopathic Medical Conference and Exposition (OMED) urges that use of benzodiazepines should be strongly limited due to the increased risk of dementia and mortality, particularly in elderly patients.

Helene Alphonso, DO, Director of Osteopathic Medical Education at North Texas University Health Science Center, will review current treatment protocols, outpatient benzodiazepine detoxification strategies, and alternative anxiety treatments in this presentation. A prior review of 9,000 patients found those who had taken a benzodiazepine for three months or less had about the same dementia risk as those who had never taken one, while taking the drug for 3–6 months raised the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 32% and taking it for more than six months increased the risk by 84% . In a study of more than 1,000 elderly patients, similar results were found.

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Dr. Aphondo said that “physicians need to partner with their patients to move them into therapies, like antidepressants, that are proven to be safer and more effective.” Some physicians continue to prescribe benzodiazepines as first-line treatment for insomnia, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and other ailments despite recommendations against these practices. In 2012, the American Geriatric Society labeled benzodiazepines “inappropriate” for treating insomnia, agitation, or delirium in patients aged ≥65 due to the risk of falls, injuries, accidental overdose, and death.

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