The effects of benzodiazepine dependence on the ability to learn and remember new material (determined with the Auditory-Verbal Learning Test) were studied in 20 detoxified, benzodiazepine-dependent patients who were 55 years of age or older and in a drug-dependence rehabilitation program. The patients were matched approximately for age, sex, and IQ with 20 detoxified, alcohol-dependent patients in the same rehabilitation program and 22 control subjects from a community sample. Neuropsychologic testing was performed a mean of 6 to 10 days after the patients had been completely detoxified from the addicting substance. The benzodiazepine-dependent patients had more difficulty with tests of learning and short-term and delayed recall than did the alcohol-dependent or control group. The difference between the benzodiazepine-dependent patients and the control group was statistically significant. The results suggest that benzodiazepine dependence in older people can cause memory impairment that persists into the early drug-free period.
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