Benzodiazepines Can Cause Dementia and Other Serious Side Effects

by | Apr 1, 2013

pills 5
Psychiatric drugs such as Xanax and Valium are pretty much on the same level of notoriety as Prozac and Zoloft.  However, Xanax and Valium are not antidepressants but are benzodiazepines.   Benzodiazepines have sedative and hypnotic effects.  They are widely prescribed for treatment of anxiety and insomnia.  In fact, one hundred million people are prescribed these drugs each year.  If so many people are taking them, does that mean they are safe and effective?  Absolutely not!
In today’s world, most would agree that life is not a walk in the park.  There are more pressures from everyday life than there ever were before.  As a result, people can get anxious or they can’t sleep or both.  Other factors can cause these conditions and of course the degree of anxiety and insomnia can be anywhere from mild to severe.  In any case, the question is, are you willing to take psychiatric drugs for these conditions if they cause severe side effects?  What if they can cause dementia later on in your life?
This is exactly what a new research study has found and that is long-term use of benzodiazepines increases the risk of dementia.  Benzodiazepines are supposed to be used for short periods of time.  However, some people have been on these drugs for years.   Among a group of adults over sixty-five years old, those that used benzodiazepines were fifty percent more likely to develop dementia over a fifteen year period.
This is not a new discovery.  Three other studies within the last decade or so all found the same results.  They found that benzodiazepines significantly increased the risk of dementia despite taking into consideration other factors that might contribute to developing this condition.  The conclusion was that these drugs have too many adverse side effects so they are not to be readily prescribed for widespread use.  In addition, the elderly who are already at risk for various health situations, should avoid these entirely.
If dementia isn’t bad enough, premature death is also a possibility from taking benzodiazepines.  In a study on sleep aid drugs which included benzodiazepines, it was found that it is four times more likely that premature death could take place from taking sleep aid drugs than if you weren’t taking anything.  This fourfold risk even applied to those patients who took less than eighteen pills a year! This information should make anyone reconsider how they want to handle their insomnia.
Xanax and Valium in particular have multiple dangerous side effects.  For starters, benzodiazepines are as addictive as heroin.  These drugs also have side effects such as suicidal thoughts, violence, seizures, hallucinations, depression, coma and blurred vision.  Clearly these drugs are not to be taken lightly as they pose extreme threats to one’s well-being.
Xanax has that sedating effect like alcohol does and has even been termed “alcohol in a pill.”   Xanax has more detrimental results than anything associated with alcohol.   Dr. Peter Breggin, a prominent psychiatrist, stated that Xanax is the most dangerous benzodiazepine but others aren’t excluded from the adverse side effects.  He said that these drugs alter judgment, cause memory problems and issues with self-control. 
Dr. Breggin said they eventually erode all mental faculties without the person really understanding that this has occurred to them.  They perhaps forget how many pills they took and then take more or add other medications thus leading to overdose or abuse.  For the elderly, it can make them drowsy or dizzy thus leading to accidents such as falling down or getting a hip fracture. 
It is not surprising that another study showed that benzodiazepines cause brain damage.  Brain scans of long-term users showed damage and decrease in size.  The brain had actually shrunk.  This type of drug also puts one at risk for certain types of cancer.  All this information just shows that there are no benefits from taking these drugs and plenty of risks to consider.  It’s supposed to be the other way around.
The question then remains how to handle anxiety and insomnia.  It must be noted that anxiety is definitely something people experience, but telling people they have social anxiety disorder (SAD), general anxiety disorder (GAD), or panic disorder is just plain ridiculous.  Psychiatry has no medical or scientific test that identifies or proves such “disorders” exist, so there is no need whatsoever to take a mind-altering drug to handle anxiety or insomnia.  Without the test, the condition is subjective, so don’t let an opinion of your symptoms push you down the psychiatric drug path.
It would be optimum to find out what exactly is causing the problem.  Benzodiazepines don’t find the real source of the insomnia or anxiety.  They just create a sedative effect to force relaxation.  A safer and more reliable route is without drugs.  There are many natural remedies available if you look. 
Regular exercise is essential for a healthy body and to improve mood.  It would be smart to examine your diet as well and reduce sugar, grains and processed foods.  It is also beneficial to eat things that support your gut which is a major factor for physical and mental health. 
There is a wealth of information that will tell you that good physical health means good mental health.  It would be wise to find a non-psychiatric oriented doctor who can do a very thorough medical examination.  Wouldn’t it be better to find a physical cause instead of thinking something is wrong with your mind?  Check it out so you can experience a long healthy life and not the serious adverse side effects of benzodiazepines.


  1. James

    Most comments here are on the money. That is, the article was written pretty much using voodoo instead of hard science as its backbone. Writers such as here do no service to people with serious problems, and if they can’t do any better than “Psychology Today” and “” as cited sources, they would be more helpful just to keep quiet.

  2. Sharon Featherston

    I don’t know where everyone here is getting their benzodiazepines from, but here in AZ they are REFUYto give patients that anymore! I had been on Lorazepam that was prescribed to me by a Dr for approximately 5 years off and on. When the Dr retired and I had to see a new Dr, he absolutely refused to refill it and referred me to Psychiatriy. Saw them one time to cookie through and he said absolutely a horrible medication! Long story short, kind of, I was not given enough to taper properly and have almost like a PTSD like symptoms going on. Not sure if it’s in spite of or because of the meds.
    Drs here think it’s the absolute worst Med ever developed. But thinking half of them are using them or have used them…. hmmmm! Any thoughts on why it’s so demonized here? Have done my homework and nothing good is said about it lately.

    • Katie

      There is NO such thing as a small dose of a benzo. I used Diazepam 5 mg as a sleep aid for 7-8 years. When I stopped Valium I went into benzo withdrawal and I had at least 100 horrible and bizarre symptoms. Some people can take a benzo for a very long time and cold turkey (c/t) and not have one symptom because coming off a benzo is based on genetics. NEVER suddenly stop taking a benzo. You should always taper off very very slowly. Your brain needs to revert back to homeostasis. When you take a benzo daily it binds and down-regulates your GabaA receptor and your brain makes more Glutamate. All of the neurotransmitters in your brain are effected, it’s like a domino effect.
      After I c/t Valium I had no short term memory and felt like I had dementia. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk, couldn’t type, had chemical anxiety where I felt I was jumping out of my skin (and I do not suffer from anxiety), suicide ideation, tachycardia, hair loss, dizziness, high blood pressure, low blood pressure. I am very healthy and I never had one problem while taking a benzo however all of my problems started after I stopped taking it. These pills are poison and they should only be used for 2-3 weeks max. If anyone takes Ambien that’s a benzo cousin and it binds to the same receptor. Both drugs should be avoided like the plague. Everyone should read the Ashton Manual and join There a several good FB Benzo support groups. Please educate yourself about benzo’s. You owe it to your brain!!

  3. Cynthia Dieball

    I appreciate CCHR, but this expression is very shallow “telling people they have social anxiety disorder (SAD), general anxiety disorder (GAD), or panic disorder is just plain ridiculous.” It’s not diagnosed willy nilly.
    I agree that xanax is dangerous, but I have severe social anxiety, and in fact I get choked a lot during times of eating in groups with co-workers or new friends, because I can’t swallow. There are real symptoms that manifest. I don’t think “ridiculous” is an accurate or intelligent response to this diagnosis.
    Psychiatry has no medical or scientific test that identifies or proves such “disorders” exist, so there is no need whatsoever to take a mind-altering drug to handle anxiety or insomnia.
    These disorders exists. I have a host of symptoms. Some people believe they are having a heart attack, spend a great deal of money on ER visits, and discover it’s anxiety.

  4. Patrick

    I have suffered from insomnia most of my life as well as anxiety. I developed panic attacks in my mid 20’s. Xanax was a new drug that worked wonderfully for me. Several Dr’s prescribed various SSRIs that I had adverse responses to such as mania and poor impulse control. I have taken low dosages 0.25 and 0.5 of Xanax and it is the only med that helps me sleep and controls anxiety. I need it for sleep most nights and occasionally for anxiety. I am very concerned about long term effects but what is my alternative?


    My 70 year old mother is currently undergoing detox in a medical facility to help her off of Xanax. Her prescribing Dr. is taking her off it because she abuses it consistently. Sadly she has been taking it for 10-15 yrs. She was taking approximately 1mg twice a day. She takes extra every time she goes to the Dr. (which is a lot) and then can’t understand or remember what the physicians are telling her. Her short term memory is terrible. She recently had to go to ER because of severe anxiety, blurred vision, shaking, etc. from withdrawal then again a few days later with anxiety even tho she was given more Xanax to “get her by” until her next refill. When asked about her hospital visit the next day she had absolutely no memory of it. I feel like I have lost my mom for years. When she isn’t taking it, I feel like I have my mom back. When we try to tell her that she took too much, and the pharmacist didn’t miss count, or how she is so out of it, she thinks has thought are lying and is in complete denial. Praying she can find something non addictive, non mind altering, to help with her anxiety over her health issues.

  6. Amanda M.

    I was on Ativan from the time I was 14. For maybe 8 months (bout 3 years ago) they switched me over to Xanax, and I felt like I was losing my mind with how bad my memory became.
    Back on the Ativan with Klonopin thrown in (all prescribed but still), 6mg/day and 2mg/day respectively. I’m only 29 But I’m worried that maybe I should get some kind of brain scan test thing? I never really came back from the Xanax level memory loss. Does anyone here think I need someone to look around my brain at this point?

  7. Becca

    Prozac and other SSRIs can cause dementia as well. I recommend reading “Prozac Backlash”. Any type of man made drug is not going to be safe. Just pick the one you like the most.

  8. Edward

    There is no link between dementia and benzodiazepines however there are some studies that suggest to avoid use of benzodiazepines in elderly patients due to increased risk of tolerance and dependance however no research clearly indicates what you have mentioned in this article.

    • Michael willcutt

      I’ve been on alprozalam for 20 years and only side effects I’ve had is missed doses as for before I was on them I could harm you if looked at me wrong but since I’ve had no side effects from them , as for many drugs my heart and vascular are more deadly from side effects than alprozalam has ever been to me but what works for me mite not for others so ether way we are darn if we take or not take it can die from not taking as well for taking them same as xeralto blood thinners die if I don’t or die if I do so it should be your choice if you don’t abuse them , most pshcharitry docs will saye there long term bad but can’t back it up.

    • Michael willcutt

      Hi Edward I’ve been using alprozalam and studying many doctors reports that contradictory to each other’s thoughts and posts on benzodizopen meds I living a better life on them than off I’ve also went to brain x-rays an tests to find my brain function is better in 20 years than before. Any responses is welcome I know these meds are abused by many an that is the cause of discrepancy between phycharitris. Thanks God bless

  9. Marcia Diane Brandon

    Is Xanax induced dementia reversible?

  10. Rick

    wut? Anxiety orders are very real and many are living an isolated life or experiencing it as if they are thrown in a cage of lions, everyday. No amount of exercise is going to fix that.

  11. Gabrielle

    I think it’s a little far fetched to say that anxiety or insomnia isn’t really a disorder, because I know many people (including myself) who experience such intense anxiety or insomnia that they cannot go about their daily lives as normal. I’ve even seen such high amounts of anxiety and insomnia in people that it has actually thrown them into a psychotic mental state. Now I am not saying that Xanax or similar drugs are a safe or sufficient solution, because I know that these drugs can actually end up giving you more anxiety or insomnia way later down the road.
    I was addicted to Xanax for a very short period of time, only 4-5 weeks, and just these few weeks have had an astonishing effect on my mind and body. Keeping in mind however, that I was taking 3-5 counterfeit Xanax a day; these are not the Xanax you get prescribed, these were made and pressed to be more powerful than anything you could get from a doctor. I have absolutely no memory of those few weeks, and I never will.
    4 months clean and I am still feeling the side effects. My mind is not nearly as quick or clear as it used to be, and I can rarely tap into my own memories without help or something to remind me of them. I struggle a lot with both long and short-term memory loss; I rarely remember what I’ve done the day before. Immediately after I quit Xanax, I fell into a psychosis that only increased my anxiety, insomnia, paranoia, and stress. I spent a lot of time re-learning life: learning how to communicate, behave, and handle my own emotions. Sometimes I feel emotionless, while other times I feel overwhelmed and there is no in between. I’m only 18 and I’m already struggling as if I had dementia… and all this damage took place over the span of only 4-5 weeks. It’s terrifying and not worth it.

  12. Maryanne finley

    I have been taking Xanax for 40 years. I am seventy. Before that I took Valium for 10 years. Am I in danger of developing dementia?

    • Carol

      I would say so. I will pray for you.

    • T Thomas

      I’ve been taking Xanax for 15 years, I’m 64 years old. My doctor said there were some studies which indicated that Xanax might contribute to dementia, and I promised him I would investigate and report back. FYI, he also asked me to go off it for a period of time, and let him know if I noticed any withdrawal effects. The following day, I stopped taking it for a week. No withdrawal effects whatsoever. I did, however, experience a slight up-tick in my long-time “anxious snacking” problem. I take Xanax as a way of moderating the stress I experience as part of my work (software developer), and I take a very low dose (.25mg).
      In my view, the claims made in this article border on hysteria, and lack objective evidence to back them up. Critical analysis of well-defined clinical studies is the only way to reach useful conclusions about the potential side-effects of a given drug. For example, Valium and Xanax may both be Benzodiazepines, but they are very different drugs. Valium has a much longer half-life (stays in your system long after its beneficial effects have worn off), hence more likely to build up in your system, while encouraging increased dosages. Years ago I heard horror stories in connection with Lorazepam (Ativan) suggesting it contributed to serious memory loss. But apparently, those predictions were unsubstantiated. Having taken Valium for a short period of time about 20 years ago (for 6-months or so), I stopped because I found the “Valium hangover” noticeable, and not worth the risk. I have continued taking Xanax because its effects (in me at least) are very mild, almost unnoticeable. When I don’t need it (i.e. not working, on vacation, etc.), I don’t even think about taking it. (Caveat, if I’m flying from the West coast to Florida, I may take one or two along to make it easier to snooze a long boring plane flight away.)
      Apropos the recent study showing a connection between Xanax and dementia, here’s a follow-up story you’ll probably want to read:
      That said, if Xanax contributes to a possible diagnosis of Alzheimers, I want to know about it, hence plan to keep looking for authoritative evidence one way or the other. If I find it is a risk factor, I’ll stop using it immediately.

    • Donna Norton

      Hi. I took Xanax for 10 years and when I withdrew I had such bad symptoms. I have permanent neurological issues because of the years of use. Trust me … they are bad. Look up information from Heather Ashton on Google. Unfortunately I have first hand knowledge of what these drugs can do to your brain long term.

    • Peter

      The article is absurd. Taking 18 .25 Xanax in one year would absolutely not contribute to sudden death. LOL Knowing the mechanism of benzos leads me to believe that if one is ALREADY older and starting to have the normal memory issues for that age, adding in Xanax OFC will sedate them and affect memory a bit. If this is a problem then they should try another drug. Heredity, poor diet, obesity, type 2 diabetes and little exercise are far more important than taking Xanax as a factor in developing dementia.

    • Michael willcutt

      No your not from long term investigation these are just opinions I found no conclusive study of these facts it’s like all medicationset there are some risk but those risks could be worse without the medication through my research it’s just bias because it’s a narcotic problems with narcotics are those who abuse them hurts those who needs them so theyou get bad press like you finding on this page I’m long term use myself but went through many different medication until one worked for me I have no side effects like zoloft would give you . Federal government just released zoloft to be took away from PTSD patients because of the increase of suicides from it an first hand knowledge how bad zoloft is myself. Don’t believe others appinons over scientific facts and studys.

    • Michael willcutt

      Becca I’m 20 years on Prozac I’m not concerned most dementia is not from drugs but inherited family genes

  13. Ang

    When I abused xanex for a few years I ended up losing my mind. Went into complete psychosis. It was terrifying and that pushed me to stop.


Leave a Reply


Contact CCHR Florida

109 N. Fort Harrison Ave.
Clearwater, Florida 33755
Tel: 1-800-782-2878