Nerd Land: Benzos, Depression & Alzheimer’s During Pandemic Isolation
Benzodiazepines are frequently prescribed to ease anxiety, insomnia and agitation. Anxiety and insomnia are risk factors for developing dementia.
As one who’s mom, paternal grandmother and aunt all died with complications related to dementia, and one who knows they all suffered with anxiety and insomnia, I am particularly interested in these kinds of stories. Additionally, anxiety has been my ongoing medical issue since I was a kid, really. I sucked my thumb til I was 12 and only stopped after my best friend blabbed it to her boyfriend.
For a long time, doctors recommended benzodiazepines to treat my anxiety, along with recommending exercise and mindfulness practices. After reading that the FDA-approved, prescription meds I was on could cause sudden seizures, I swore to never take them again and leaned into plant medicine, despite the societal stigma in the early 1990’s.
Anxiety and isolation related depression are having a devastating impact on our seniors and the people who love them.
Below are some recent stories and research that I found particularly interesting:
[FTA] “…Concluding Thoughts
Available evidence indicates a positive association between the use of benzodiazepines and the development of dementia, although causality cannot be inferred from this data. Despite the lack of evidence proving causality, the association between benzodiazepine use and the development of dementia is a major cause for concern given the prevalence of benzodiazepine use among older adults. The prescription of benzodiazepines to older adults must be carefully reviewed given the lack of data regarding their long-term efficacy and their significant adverse effects including the risk for developing dementia.”
Preliminary clinical trials also support the efficacy of CBD as an anxiolytic, antipsychotic, and antidepressant, and more importantly, a positive risk-benefit profile. These promising results support the development of large-scale studies to further evaluate CBD as a potential new drug for the treatment of these psychiatric disorders.
[FTA] “…In September, Bettie Pitchford, 76, who had been an accomplished quilter, occasional clown for children’s parties, active member of her church and the NAACP and director of special education for the Pontiac School District outside Detroit, became one of thousands of Americans with dementia to die unexpectedly, succumbing not to the infection of COVID-19 but to the way it upended their already off-kilter lives.
Nationally, about 259,250 people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia were expected to die last year, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Federal data analyzed by the association shows that the number of dementia deaths, at least through the end of November, was 16% higher. More than 38,000 people died unexpectedly…”
“Pain, insomnia and anxiety were the most common reasons for cannabis use and, for the most part, patients reported that cannabis was helping to address these issues, especially with insomnia and pain,” said Christopher Kaufmann, PhD, co-first author of the study and assistant professor in the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology in the Department of Medicine at UC San Diego.
[fta] “…Overlooked amid America’s war against the coronavirus is this reality: People with dementia are dying not just from the virus but from the very strategy of isolation that’s supposed to protect them. In recent months, doctors have reported increased falls, pulmonary infections, depression and sudden frailty in patients who had been stable for years…”