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HOUSTON, TX – Getting old is stressful, but how you deal with it might be putting you at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study published in the British Medical Journal found that aging patients using benzodiazepines, like Xanax and Valium, for an extended period are at 51% higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Patients take these to treat things like anxiety, panic attacks, and sleep problems. In fact, Xanax has been the top selling psychiatric drug in the U.S.  Here in the USA 70% of us are taking one kind of prescription pill or another.

So how is Houston’s psychiatric health community responding to the study?

UTHealth Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences’ Michael Weaver, M.D. says, “This isn’t necessarily brand new… this study points more of a direct link to Alzheimer’s, but we don’t know if it’s a cause of Alzheimer’s, or if you just have some overlap of effects.”

And what`s the alternative to treating aging and anxious patients?

Dr. Weaver explains, “Insomnia and anxiety can be treated with other behavioral techniques… we can treat people with other anti-depressants that also help with anxiety. Those tend to be safer and better tolerated than benzodiazepines especially in older folks.”

Next time you reach for that chill pill, think about your future. Aging is rough, but Alzheimer’s disease is down right terrible.