Cognitive effects of long-term benzodiazepine use in older adults

Hum Psychopharmacol. 2003 Jan;18(1):51-7. doi: 10.1002/hup.453.


This study examined the potential for cognitive morbidity associated with the long-term use of benzodiazepine (BZ) sedative-hypnotics in a sample of healthy older adults. Tests of memory, attention and processing speed were conducted prior to and 1 month after drug discontinuation for 25 BZ-users and at similar intervals for 26 healthy control subjects. After controlling for differences in affective status between BZ-users and controls, there were no significant group differences in cognitive performance. However, BZ-users showed greater gains on tests of attention and speed of processing at repeat testing compared with controls this improvement was not attributable to a change in affective status. These findings suggest that there may be subtle and reversible effects of long-term BZ use on speed-dependent tasks in older adults. However, the magnitude of these effects is quite small and may be of little clinical significance in the healthy elderly.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology*
  • Benzodiazepines / administration & dosage
  • Benzodiazepines / adverse effects
  • Benzodiazepines / pharmacology*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / drug effects
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / drug effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychometrics / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Benzodiazepines