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Study: Common medication treatments for PTSD can increase the risk of developing dementia

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Drugs for PTSD linked to increased risk of dementia (The Pharmaceutical Journal):

“Certain psychotropic drugs used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) increase the risk of developing dementia, including in patients who do not have PTSD but take the drugs for other conditions, study results published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

As expected, a diagnosis of PTSD was found to significantly increase the risk of a dementia diagnosis…the results show that the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, novel antidepressants and atypical antipsychotics increased that risk of dementia still further… Veterans who did not have PTSD and took the drugs also had an increased risk of dementia.

While the use of serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) or benzodiazepines (BZA) to treat PTSD was not found to significantly increase the risk of dementia specifically in patients with PTSD, the results showed that use of either drug was found to be independently associated with an increased risk of dementia diagnosis in the veterans, regardless of PTSD diagnosis.”

The Study

PTSD, Psychotropic Medication Use, and the Risk of Dementia Among US Veterans: A Retrospective Cohort Study (Journal of the American Geriatrics Society). From the abstract:

  • Objective: To determine the associations between PTSD, psychotropic medication use, and the risk for dementia.
  • Results: PTSD diagnosis significantly increased the risk for dementia diagnosis (HR = 1.35; [95% CI = 1.27–1.43]). However, there were significant interactions between PTSD diagnosis and use of SSRIs (P < .001), NAs (P = .014), and AAs (P < .001) on the risk for dementia diagnosis. HR for dementia diagnosis among veterans diagnosed with PTSD and not using psychotropic medications was 1.55 [1.45–1.67]. Among veterans diagnosed with PTSD prescribed SSRI, SNRI, or AA, HR for dementia diagnosis varied by drug class use ranging from 1.99 for SSRI to 4.21 for AA, relative to veterans without a PTSD diagnosis and no psychotropic medication receipt. BZAs or SNRIs use at baseline was associated with a significantly increased risk for dementia diagnosis independent of a PTSD diagnosis.
  • Conclusion: PTSD diagnosis is associated with an increased risk for dementia diagnosis that varied with receipt of psychotropic medications. Further research would help to delineate if these findings are due to differences in PTSD severity, psychiatric comorbidity, or independent effects of psychotropic medications on cognitive decline.

To Learn More

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