As a nurse in Long Term Care, I can't tell you the number of times that I have seen patients or "residents" on long term use of benzodiazepines: medications including valium, ambien and xanax. Doctors come month after month and "sign off" the renewal of these meds to what eventually totals months and years. (Ideally, the patients should not be on the meds on a few weeks max). Beyond a few week's use, it is a known fact that short term problems can become chronic: falls occur, confusion, car accidents, incontinence and numerous other conditions arise and become problematic. Note: this is in long term care where there are nurses and pharmacy consultants and other professionals available to monitor safety and adverse effects.
But, what about in the community where many elders live alone, miles away from their families? People over the age f 65 are particularly at risk to developing problems when using these and other medications. Let's look at some of the safety issues involved in the long term use of the benzodiazepines.
What the studies show
Now, more and more studies are surfacing that reveal the long term use of benzodiazepines pre-disposes patients to increased risk of dementia, cancer and diabetes. This is in part due to the fact that many people over 65 are on multiple medications for long periods of time. Due to slower body metabolism, it is extremely difficult for the body to completely detox and excrete these medications. So, what occurs is a cumulative buildup of toxic drugs that can cause lethal interactions. For example, studies have shown that adults over 65 who have used benzodiazepines were 50 percent more likely to develop dementia over a 15 year period!
Addiction is also known to be a risk because these drugs have a calming effect on the body due to the relaxing effects of GA BA (gamma amino butyric acid). Opioid and benzodiazepines have a similar effect due to its action on the hormone dopamine. Therefore, these drugs have a tendency to become habit forming.
Safer alternatives include: cutting down on sugars, especially fructose, grains and processed foods which can contain high levels of MSG and preservatives. Increase the usage of fermented foods to promote healthy gut function. Remember, the gut is important in the production of neurotransmitters.
Get more Vitamin D by getting outside and supplementing the diet with vitamin D as necessary.(Follow the recommendations of you health care provider). This is good for mood and overall better mental health. Exercise is great - particularly aerobic since it delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Also, increase the amount of animal based omega 3 fats which are also important for mental health and brain function.
'Clear Association' that Xanax, Valium and other Benzodiazepines can cause Dementia Study articles.mercola.com