According to a recent fro the University of Eastern Finland, benzodiazepines and drugs like benzodiazepines have been associated with a 20% increase in risk of stoke in persons with Alzheimer’s disease.
The data was pulled from a nationwide study (MEDALZ) conducted at the University of Eastern Finland between 2005-2011. The study included more than 45,000 persons with Alzheimer’s disease, 22% among them having used benzodiazepines or benzodiazepine-like drugs.
Both benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine-like drugs showed a similar increase in risk for stroke. Benzodiazepines are anti-medications, also sometimes used for sleep disorders. They include name brand drugs such as Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, and Ativan.
Drugs like benzodiazepines include sedatives such as the brand names Ambien, Lunestra, and Sonata. They bind to the same receptors in the brain as benzodiazepines and induce a similar sedative effect, thus they are indicated for use in the treatment of insomnia.
According to the study, the use of both benzodiazepine and benzo-like drugs was associated with an increased risk of any stroke and ischemic stroke.
Although the association to hemorrhagic stroke was not significant, the study population consisted of a very limited number of hemorrhagic stroke events.
Previously, these drugs have not been found to increase the risk of strokes or other cerebrovascular events. The analysis also took into account cardiovascular risk factors, and it was found that they did not contribute to the association.
These findings indicate that physicians should carefully consider the use of these drugs in patients with Alzheimer’s disease – indeed, stroke is among the leading causes of death in this population group.
Benzodiazepine use, though rarely fatal on its own, has been known to contribute to many overdose deaths, particularly when mixed with alcohol, opioids, or other sedatives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lorazepam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium) are now considered among the ten deadliest drugs in the United States.