A commonly prescribed drug could be harmful to the brain

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Millions of Brits who take this drug could be at risk of brain disease.

A commonly prescribed drug in the UK could affect users’ brains later in life, a new study has found. Millions of Britons are prescribed anti-anxiety drugs to manage overwhelming feelings or to sleep better at night, but the pills have been shown to impact microglial cells in the brain, The sun reports.

Long term effect

The findings were made by scientists from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANTSO). They found that the long-term use of anti-anxiety medications could interfere with dendritic spines – part of brain neurons that help electrify and activate cells.

Researchers conclude that long-term use of anti-anxiety medications could increase the risk of developing dementia. However, they are not sure how this happens. Professor Richard Banati is with the research team and said Neuroscience News:

The knowledge gained in this work by a large international team helps in the development of anti-anxiety drugs without these adverse cognitive effects. The specific experiment looked closely at how long-term use of anti-anxiety drugs, such as diazepam, can alter the brain’s complex wiring.

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Human trials

Although quite confident about the contribution of this study – conducted on mice – to knowledge about the use of these drugs, the researchers say the effects may not be the same in humans.

The drug used in the animal test was diazepam, aka Valium which is used for the treatment of anxiety, alcohol withdrawal and seizures. The study reveals that the drug affected the brain in a way that could lead to users intense fatigue and later, dementia. The research, published in the journal of Natural neuroscience concluded:

In addition to the development of tolerance and the risk of abuse, their chronic use can lead to cognitive impairment and increase the risk of dementia. However, the mechanism by which benzodiazepines might contribute to persistent cognitive decline remains unknown.

Read more:

⋙ Dementia: where you live could be linked to cognitive decline

⋙ Dementia: a commonly prescribed drug has been linked to cognitive decline

⋙ Alzheimer’s dementia: afternoon naps may be an early sign of the disease

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