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Study: Anti-anxiety drugs are linked to Alzheimer's disease

New research suggests that people who take benzodiazepines, a.k.a. prescription drugs like Xanax and Valium, are at higher risk for developing Alzheimer's disease.

A study published in The BMJ (formerly The British Medical Journal) this week found a link between anti-anxiety and sleeping drugs and Alzheimer's disease. Researchers studied the medication history of 1,796 elderly people with Alzheimer's, along with 7,184 controls who weren't diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and found that use of benzodiazepines increased the participants' Alzheimer's risk by as much as 51 percent.

The study, led by Sophie Billioti de Gage, a PhD student at INSERM, University of Bordeaux, tracked the participants for six years and found a strong connection between the disease and the medications. Notably, the connection was still present when researchers adjusted for consideration of factors like blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and insomnia, Time reports.

The good news, though, is that the study didn't find a link between Alzheimer's risk and participants who took benzodiazepines for less than three months, which is how long many of the prescriptions are used. However, long-term use of the prescriptions may have a lasting effect on your memory, so it's important to discuss your family's medical history and potential risks when starting a new medication.