A new study has combined two of the most frightening words there are to anyone over a certain age — hip fractures and Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers are sounding the alarm about the latest in a long history of bad news about drugs called benzodiazepines (or benzos) and the risk of breaking a hip.
But there’s a lot more going on behind this warning, because it’s all tied in with dementia and Alzheimer’s in the worst possible way.
Drugged, dazed, and confused
Benzos and a similar kind of med called “Z drugs” are famous for smoothing out anxieties and helping people find their way to Dreamland.
So it’s no wonder that caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients might turn to drugs like these for the calming effects they have on their loved ones or patients.
But these drugs are well-known for another side effect: unsteadiness and falls — and that’s especially dangerous for people with dementia.
Recently, researchers at the University of Eastern Finland wanted to figure out the risk of hip fractures in Alzheimer’s patients taking these kinds of meds. And they uncovered a dangerous link.
During the six years in which data was collected, they found that patients who used benzos or Z drugs were almost twice as likely to fracture a hip as Alzheimer’s patients who weren’t given the drugs.
For any senior, a broken hip is serious business. But for those with Alzheimer’s, it’s life-threatening, and at the minimum it means agonizing months spent in the hospital.
So it’s pretty obvious that a lot of heartache and misery could be avoided if the millions of doctors and caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients could be made aware of this study’s results.
But it’s just as important that the message gets through to those who are sharp as a tack, because benzos and Z drugs are bad news for everyone.
Here are three big reasons to never, ever swallow one of these kinds of meds:
#1: The unsteadiness that they cause in Alzheimer’s patients can happen to anyone — especially seniors. They can make you feel loopier than a dozen rides on a roller coaster. And plenty of research backs that up. There are numerous studies that reveal a higher hip-fracture risk in healthy and mentally sharp older people who use benzos.
#2: These drugs are highly addictive. Benzo drugs can relieve anxiety, but in just a few weeks of daily use, that relief can turn into confusion, shakiness, seizures and convulsions.
#3: Benzo drugs can cause dementia symptoms in people who actually have no cognition problems at all.
Just this past summer I told you about a shocking study in which Canadian researchers calculated that more than 10 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia cases are misdiagnosed.
The culprits in these cases are not mysterious biological workings of the brain, but rather an overload of certain drugs. And at the top of the list of meds most likely to blame, you’ll find benzodiazepine and Z drugs, including:
- Benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Valium and Halcion, and
- Sleep aids, including Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata (Z drugs that work in a way very similar to benzos).
If you suspect that a drug you’re taking might be impairing your thinking, however, you just can’t stop taking them cold turkey. Many of these meds need to be carefully discontinued under your doctor’s supervision, to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
And if you have a loved one with any kind of dementia — especially Alzheimer’s — it’s urgent that you make sure they’re never given any of these drugs…ever.
“Benzodiazepine, related drug use increases hip fractures in persons with Alzheimer’s disease” University of Eastern Finland, November 23, 2016, ScienceDaily, sciencedaily.com