Benzodiazepines (BZDs) are widely used in patients with bipolar disorder. The aim of this study was to determine chronic use of BZDs in patients with a first bipolar episode and the association between its use and cognition.
A prospective longitudinal study was conducted in a cohort of 63 patients under 40 years old with a first manic or mixed episode. The percentage of patients taking BZDs in the baseline sample was evaluated at 6 months and for the next 3 years. Cognitive functioning was compared between patients with chronic BDZ use and those who did not use them. A linear regression model adjusted for potential confounding variables such as age and education level were used.
Just over half the sample (55.6%; n = 35) took BZD at the start of the study. At 6 months, this percentage decreased to 34.9% (n = 22) and to 14.3% (n = 9) at 3 years of follow-up. Patients who took BZD chronically had worse outcomes in overall attention. These differences remained significant when controlled for the variables age and education level (B -0.462, p = 0.046, 95% CI: - 0.914 - 0.009).
Chronic administration of BZD occurs in a small percentage of bipolar patients at disease onset, and is associated with decreased attention. These side effects should be followed up.