NOTICE: This article contains content which may be difficult for some BZAIs. See end of article for info.
An article titled, "Cognitive Consequences of Benzodiazepine Use: Is It Worth Losing Our Mind Over?," was recently published in Pharmacy Times. This article was written by researchers affiliated with the Alliance for Benzodiazepine Best Practices and it highlighted the link between long-term benzodiazepine use and cognitive dysfunction.
This article's primary focus was a meta-analysis of 13 studies. These studies focused on a variety of cognitive effects that appear to be associated with long-term benzodiazepine use.
Here are some highlights from the article:
Based on a meta-analysis of 13 studies, the average duration of benzodiazepine use was 9.9 years. Since the FDA recommends short-term use only, this is a significant disconnect. (Stewart 2005)
One study concluded that long-term exposure to benzodiazepines "increases the risk of dementia by as much as 78%" (Islam 2016), yet other studies have presented conflicting evidence.
"Previous long-term benzodiazepine users experience some degree of improvement in cognitive abilities [after cessation]" (Barker 2005), although "it is not known whether or when cognitive function will return to baseline levels." (Zetsen 2022)
Benzodiazepines have been shown to cause impairment to motor coordination, psychomotor speed, verbal reasoning and learning, executive function, sensory processing, episodic memory, concentration, IQ, processing speed, visuospatial and visuomotor abilities, and they can result in delayed response time and an altered perception of self, environment, and relationships. (Neal 2023)
Certain populations are at higher risk, "including those taking higher doses, elderly patients, and those using benzodiazepines concomitantly with drugs, alcohol, or anticholinergic psychotropic medications." (Stewart 2005)
Much of these findings are consistent with our research recently published in PLOS ONE, which introduces the terminology for benzodiazepine-induced neurological dysfunction, or BIND.
Link to complete article:
Barker MJ, Greenwood KM, Jackson M, Crowe SF. An evaluation of persisting cognitive effects after withdrawal from long-term benzodiazepine use. J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2005 May;11(3):281-9. doi: 10.1017/S1355617705050332. PMID: 15892904. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15892904/.
Islam MM, Iqbal U, Walther B, Atique S, Dubey NK, Nguyen PA, Poly TN, Masud JH, Li YJ, Shabbir SA. Benzodiazepine Use and Risk of Dementia in the Elderly Population: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Neuroepidemiology. 2016;47(3-4):181-191. doi: 10.1159/000454881. Epub 2016 Dec 24. PMID: 28013304. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28013304/.
Neal D and Bressi J. "Cognitive Consequences of Benzodiazepine Use: Is it Worth Losing Our Mind Over?" Pharmacy Times. July 6, 2023. Accessed July 7, 2023. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/cognitive-consequences-of-benzodiazepine-use-is-it-worth-losing-our-mind-over-.
Stewart SA. The effects of benzodiazepines on cognition. J Clin Psychiatry. 2005;66 Suppl 2:9-13. PMID: 15762814. https://www.psychiatrist.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/24595_effects-benzodiazepines-cognition.pdf.
Zetsen SPG, Schellekens AFA, Paling EP, Kan CC, Kessels RPC. Cognitive Functioning in Long-Term Benzodiazepine Users. Eur Addict Res. 2022;28(5):377-381. doi: 10.1159/000525988. Epub 2022 Aug 30. PMID: 36041417. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36041417/.
This article contains information regarding the long-term effects of benzodiazepines, including cognitive and memory impairment. This information may be distressing to certain benzodiazepine-affected individuals (BZAIs) during acute phases of withdrawal and BIND. It may be wise to avoid exposure during this time.