Patients over the age of 65 who start taking benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, have a 50 per cent increased chance of developing dementia within 15 years, compared with people who had never used the drug, according to the study. Researchers from the University of Bordeaux, France, warned against “indiscriminate widespread use” of the drugs, which are also used to treat insomnia.
The drug is widely used in many countries. In France, 30 per cent of people over 65 take benzodiazepines. Many take the drug for long periods despite guidelines suggesting it should only be used for a few weeks.
The research, which is published on bmj.com, examined 1,063 people with an average age of 78 over two decades. They had never taken the drug before and were all free from dementia.
They found that 95 patients started taking benzodiazepine during the study. After a 15-years, 253 people developed dementia. Of these, 30 had begun to take the drugs between three and five years into the study.