When Alzheimer’s Isn’t Alzheimer’s

Previously, we told you about research that showed how taking as little as three drugs daily, sharply increases your risk of memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease… all as a result of drug interactions. And the more drugs you take, the greater your risk. Plus, it doesn’t matter if they’re prescription or over-the-counter drugs.

What makes this really scary is that the average elderly person takes seven different drugs every day. Some patients pop as many as 11 pills daily!

Yes I know, you may need some of those drugs, but a lot of them get prescribed “just to be safe” or, honestly, out of habit. So, firstly you need to ask yourself if the risk of a dementia diagnosis is really worth taking all those drugs… it’s important to consult your doctor and make sure all the medication you’re taking is really necessary.

Forget me not

But what if just one prescription drug is possibly behind the rising number in Alzheimer’s diagnoses?

According to Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, chief of biological psychiatry at Duke University Medical Centre, in the US, “every Alzheimer’s expert living today has been fooled.”

Dr. Doraiswamy is convinced that countless patients are being diagnosed every year with a disease they don’t really have. And it all comes down to the overuse of more than 100 different drugs that can mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis can only be accurately confirmed when an autopsy is performed. This means many patients and their caregivers are left to suffer for years without realising that their prescription drugs were causing their declining memories and loss of independence.

In fact, a five-year study by the National Institute on Ageing looked at autopsies and found that as many as a third of so-called Alzheimer’s patients didn’t really have the condition. Many of their brain issues were likely caused by a medicine cabinet full of drugs that many elderly patients are taking.

Last year, for example, research published in the British Medical Journal, concluded that benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax, as well as other common prescription drugs, can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s symptoms by a whopping 84 per cent.

According to Dr. Anne Fabiny, head of geriatrics at the Harvard Cambridge Health Alliance, benzodiazepines are especially dangerous because they can “cause confusion and slow down mental processes.”

Aside from cognitive problems, benzos have been proven to cause dangerous falls and fractures. The combinations of these symptoms might just be all it takes for you or someone you love to end up with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Even though this link has become common knowledge, the crisis may soon become much, much worse. That’s because prescriptions for benzodiazepines have skyrocketed in the past few years.

Here in the UK, where benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed, the number of people with early onset dementia is now twice what health officials previously thought. In the US, according to research from ProPublica, in the past two years 40 million benzodiazepines prescriptions were handed out.

There is no doubt that the rise in benzodiazepine prescriptions is set to send the number of faulty Alzheimer’s diagnoses through the roof. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that we’re going to see 44 per cent more cases diagnosed in the next 10 years.

If you or someone you love is suffering from a declining memory – or has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – it’s never been more important to check your prescriptions and talk to your doctor about scaling back your medication, especially if it includes a benzodiazepine drug.

According to Dr. Gary Kennedy, chief of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, you might just see a remarkable and fast difference. He added: “I have had people referred to me with a clear history of dementia and when I started to peel back the medications, they were much better.”

*Brand and generic names of some common benzo drugs include: Ativan, Librium, Valium, Xanax, alprazolam, diazepam, temazepam and triazolam.

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“One nation, under sedation: Medicare paid for nearly 40 million tranquilizer prescriptions in 2013” Charles Ornstein and Ryann Grochowski Jones, June 10, 2015, ProPublica, propublica.org