Benzodiazepines and Dementia Risk: Exploring the Role of Light Therapy

Benzodiazepines and Dementia Risk: Exploring the Role of Light Therapy

Benzodiazepines are depressants that produce sedation and hypnosis, relieve anxiety and muscle spasms, and reduce seizures [1]. It is commonly prescribed for disorders like anxiety, insomnia, and seizures, and has been under the spotlight recently.

A recent article by Psychiatric Times highlighted the risks that could arise from using them, particularly for older people [2]. Alarmingly, up to 44% of benzodiazepine prescriptions for this age range are seen as possibly being inappropriate. Even while these drugs offer advantages, it is impossible to ignore the negative effects they can have, including hospitalizations, overdose deaths, falls, and car accidents. The growing body of research indicating that benzodiazepine use may raise the risk of dementia in older persons is one of the most alarming discoveries.

Benzodiazepine use and dementia have been linked in numerous research, although the link between the two has not been shown due to the lack of randomized controlled trials. This raises a pressing question: Given the potential risks, should there be stricter guidelines or alternatives considered for prescribing benzodiazepines to older adults?

The role of light therapy (or transcranial photobiomodulation (tPBM)

Transcranial photobiomodulation, also known as brain light therapy, is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique that uses near-infrared (NIR) light to improve mitochondrial function and increase blood flow in the brain [3]. This method has shown promise in various neurological and psychological conditions, including traumatic brain injury, stroke, and depression.


How can light therapy help?

  • Neuroprotection: One of the most important aspects of transcranial photobiomodulation is its neuroprotective effects. By enhancing mitochondrial function, tPBM has the potential to prevent neuronal death, a factor that might play a pivotal role in conditions like dementia;
  • Improved Cognition: Some research has suggested that tPBM may improve memory and attention, among other cognitive processes. For older adults at risk of cognitive decline due to benzodiazepine use, this could be a game-changer;
  • Reduced Inflammation: It is thought that persistent inflammation has a role in the emergence of a variety of neurodegenerative conditions, including dementia. The potential of photobiomodulation (tPBM) to lessen neuroinflammation offers hope for possibly delaying or preventing the development of dementia;
  • Safety and Tolerability: Photobiomodulation (tPBM) has a good safety profile in a world where some therapies have a long list of side effects. This appeals to elderly people because the majority of users report few or no negative effects.


The possible hazards of benzodiazepines, particularly for older persons, cannot be ignored, despite the fact that they unquestionably have a significant role in medicine. The association between benzodiazepine use and the development of dementia is particularly concerning. While research tries to make sense of these discoveries, transcranial photobiomodulation, also known as light therapy, among other complementary therapies, offers a glimpse of hope.

Although it's important to keep in mind that additional studies are required to completely comprehend the potential and restrictions of tPBM, the future is undeniably bright, as we look into cutting-edge strategies for enhancing the cognitive health of our aging population.



[1] DEA United States Drug Enforcement Administration. What are Benzodiazepines? Available Online:

[2] Tampi, R.R, MD, MS, DFAPA; Bennett, A. Ph.D. Benzodiazepine Use and the Risk of Dementia. 2021. Available Online:

[3] Askalsky, P.; Iosifescu, D. V. Transcranial Photobiomodulation For The Management Of Depression: Current Perspectives. 2019. Available Online:


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