In a recent study the NY Times calls “disturbing,” researchers reviewing years of medical records for 9,000 people found a very strong link between benzodiazapenes (anti-anxiety drugs) and Alzheimer’s Disease. The NY Times article does a great job of analyzing the study which concluded that 90 or more doses of a benzodiazapene over any period correlated with a significant increase in developing Alzheimer’s Disease. For people with 180 or more doses, the correlation was nearly double.
Benzos are often used in nursing homes. The current national rate of use is 21%(!), in California the rate is 17.6%. These drugs are typically ineffective and in many cases, actually exacerbate the “anxiety” or other problems that they were intended to control. They have long been on the Beers list as drugs to avoid with elderly people. And now we can say they probably cause Alzheimer’s Disease.
It seems time for the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care and Reduce Antipsychotic Use in Nursing Homes to address anti-anxiety medications as well. As CMS celebrates its success in reducing antipsychotics, it needs to start asking why anti-anxiety drugging rates have barely budged. If our national goal is really to improve dementia care, we must target all of the chemical restraints, not just those with the worst press coverage.