Common anxiety drugs increase Alzheimer’s risk

You know that stuff they mumble at the end of drug commercials, about side effects? Well, today I’ve got a doozy to share with you. But here, it’s not mumbled at top speed. I’m spelling it out for you slowly and clearly, because I want you to make informed decisions.

According to a new study, long-term use of benzodiazepines–a class of drug commonly prescribed for anxiety and sleeplessness–is linked to a greater risk of Alzheimer’s. And not just a slightly increased risk. We’re talking as much as 51 percent higher.

The researchers analyzed six years of data, and noted 1,796 cases of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study found that risk set in after just three months on the drug. And the longer people took it, the higher their risk for dementia. Additionally, the study indicated that long-acting or “extended-release” forms of the drugs were associated with higher risk for Alzheimer’s than shorter acting forms of the same medication.

This isn’t the first study to suggest a link between use of this class of drugs and increased dementia risk. Another study published in 2012, also in BMJ, also found a significant increase in dementia risk in people taking benzodiazepines.

Benzodiazepines include medications such as Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), Xanax (alprazolam) and Klonopin (clonazepam). If they sound familiar, that’s because they are. Millions of people take these drugs on a daily basis.

Benzodiazepines are frequently prescribed because anxiety is a common problem. I get that. But taking something that will ultimately make you sicker isn’t a solution.

Especially when there are safe, natural alternatives that are just as effective—if not more so. Here are a few of my top picks:

  • Ashwaghanda.One recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial showed that taking ashwagandha could cut depression and anxiety scores by as much as 72 percent. I recommend 150 mg, three times a day.
  • Grass-fed beef. Research shows people who eat more red meat are less likely to struggle with anxiety and depression.
  • Curcumin. Last week, I told you about new research showing that taking 500 mg of curcumin twice a day was as effective as drugs in treating depression and anxiety.
  • L-theanine. This is the calming agent found in green tea. I recommend using it on an as-needed basis at 200 mg a pop.


“Commonly prescribed drugs could raise risk for Alzheimer’s,” CBS News, 9/10/14 (

“Benzodiazepines and risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” BMJ 2014; 349 :g5312 (

“A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults.” Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul;34(3):255-62