A causal relationship between benzodiazepine use and risk of dementia could not be established, a study published in the BMJ reported.

Researchers conducted a prospective population-based cohort to examine whether higher cumulative benzodiazepine use was tied to a higher risk of dementia or more rapid cognitive decline.

Using the integrated healthcare delivery system in Seattle, WA, a total of 3434 patients aged ≥65 years were recruited. Every 2 years, the cognitive abilities screening instrument (CASI) was administered to screen for dementia and to assess cognitive trajectory. Incident dementia and Alzheimer’s disease were determined via standard criteria. The total standardized daily doses (TSDDs) over a 10-year period was used to define benzodiazepine exposure. 

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During the 7.3 mean follow-up years, 23.2% (n=797) of patients developed dementia, of which 637 developed Alzheimer’s disease. Cumulative benzodiazepine use was associated with dementia with a hazard ratio (HR) 1.25 (95% CI: 1.03-1.51) for 1-30 TSDDs; HR 1.31 (95% CI: 1.00-1.71) for 31-120 TSDDs; and 1.07 (95% CI: 0.82-1.39) for ≥121 TSDDs. Study authors reported similar patterns for Alzheimer’s disease. 

However, greater benzodiazepine use was not correlated with a faster cognitive decline, they noted.

Overall, dementia risk was a little higher in patients with minimal exposure to benzodiazepines but not with the highest level of exposure. Study findings do not support a causal relationship between dementia and use of benzodiazepine, the researchers concluded.

For more information visit bmj.com.