Xanax, Valium Linked To Side Effects

September 27, 2012 Updated Sep 27, 2012 at 9:05 PM EDT

By WKBW Programming

September 27, 2012 Updated Sep 27, 2012 at 9:05 PM EDT

(WKBW/ABC News) A new study published in the British Medical Journal shows a class of drugs used to treat insomnia and anxiety could put the elderly at greater risk of life-altering side effects.

Benzodiazepines, commonly known as downers, include a whole family of medications such as Valium and Xanax.

Now a study from France is adding to a growing body of evidence
that shows patients who begin taking these drugs after age 65 are nearly 50 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who don't use them.

Researchers followed more than a thousand men and women averaging 78 years old who showed no signs of dementia at the start of the 20-year study.

The authors found that new users of the drugs developed dementia
symptoms earlier.

The study finds these meds may contribute to serious falls and
fractures stemming from those falls in the elderly.

But the drugs are popular with seniors because they're effective in
treating insomnia and anxiety. Patients may take them for years instead of just weeks.

The report concludes that more research is needed on the possible association between benzodiazepines and the increased risk of dementia in patients over and under age 65.

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