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Sleeping pill increases dementia risk

28 September 2012

Sleeping pill increases dementia risk

A new study has revealed that sleeping pills, taken by an estimated 1.5million Britons, can increase the risk of dementia.

The results showed that pensioners using benzodiazepines – which include temazepam and diazepam – were 50% more likely to go on to develop dementia. This has led to researchers believing that doctors should stop prescribing the medication.

Researchers from Harvard University and the University of Bordeaux followed 1,063 men and women over the age of 65 for a 20 year period. To begin with no participants were taking the sleeping pills or showing signs of dementia.

After 15 years, researchers found that 253 participants had developed dementia. The results showed that of one hundred people who had started taking the drug, 4.8 would develop the condition, compared to 3.2 of every one hundred who weren’t taking the drug.

Professor Tobias Kurth, who works jointly at Harvard University’s School of Public Health and the University of Bordeaux, said, “There is a potential that these drugs are really harmful. If it is really true that these drugs are causing dementia that will be huge. But one single study does not necessarily show everything that is going on, so there is no need to panic. These drugs certainly have their benefits and if you prescribe them in a way they should be prescribed they treat very well.”

A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society said, “This is the not the first time it has been suggested that these drugs could have a negative impact on cognition. With this long-term study adding to the evidence, it emphasises how important it is we properly monitor how treatments for anxiety or sleep problems are used.”