Health

Psychoactive drug use may up death risk in Alzheimer's patients


London, Nov 22 (IANS): Benzodiazepine -- a class of psychoactive drugs -- used as first-line treatment of anxiety, agitation and insomnia among persons with Alzheimer's disease, may increase their risk of death by 40 per cent, warns a study.

Alzheimer's is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions.

The study, led by researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, found that the risk of death was increased right from the initiation of benzodiazepine and related drug use.

The increased risk of death may result from the adverse events of these drugs, including fall-related injuries, such as hip fractures, as well as pneumonia and stroke.

For the study, published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, the team included 10,380 new users of benzodiazepines and related drugs who were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

They were compared with 20,760 persons who did not use these drugs.

Although several treatment guidelines state that non-pharmacological options are the first-line treatment of anxiety, agitation and insomnia in persons with dementia, benzodiazepines and related drugs are frequently used in the treatment of these symptoms.

In 2012, the American Geriatrics Society had added benzodiazepines to their list of inappropriate medications for treating insomnia, agitation, or delirium.

That decision was made primarily because common side-effects of benzodiazepines --confusion and clouded thinking -- often have disastrous consequences, including falls, fractures, and auto accidents.

If benzodiazepine and related drug use is necessary, these drugs are recommended for short-term use only, the researchers suggested, stressing the need for more consideration for the use of these drugs in persons with dementia.

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