It remains unclear whether benzodiazepines (BZDs) constitute a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). In this study, we investigated associations between chronic use of BZDs and brain amyloid load, a hallmark of AD, in 268 nondemented older individuals. F18-florbetapir positron emission tomography scans were performed to assess amyloid load as measured by standardized uptake value ratios, which were compared between chronic BZD users and nonusers using adjusted multiple linear regressions. Short- versus long-acting BZDs were also considered in the analyses. Standardized uptake value ratios were significantly lower in BZD users (n = 47) than in nonusers (n = 221), independent of multiple adjustments. The effect was stronger for short-acting BZDs than for long-acting BZDs. This is the first large clinical study showing a reduced brain amyloid load in chronic BZD users, especially with short-acting BZDs. Our results do not support the view of BZD use as a risk factor for AD and instead support the involvement of pharmacological mechanisms related to neuronal hyperactivity, neuroinflammation, and sleep quality as potential targets for blocking amyloid accumulation.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Amyloid; Benzodiazepine; Florbetapir; GABA-A; Positron emission tomography.
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