Overuse of Benzodiazepine in the Elderly

The New York Times recently reported that even after 30 years of warnings regarding the dangers it poses to the elderly, use of benzodiazepine, sedative-hypnotic drugs like Valium, Xanax, Ativan and Klonopin, rises sharply with age. A study in the February 2015 edition of JAMA Psychiatry reports that 9% of those between 65 and 80 years of age take them and the proportion is even higher among women at 11%. These are astounding figures for any class of drug.

The known adverse effects of these drugs include increased risks of falls and fractures, diminished cognition in terms of memory and other neuropsychological measures, as well as an increased risk for car accidents.

497526103Yet, doctors persist in prescribing them. Why?

Doctors like to prescribe them because they work fast for such things as insomnia and nervousness. Doctors encounter resistance to employing alternatives like meditation and talk therapy by their senior patients.

Seniors don’t want to give them up. They are addicted to either the drug or the notion that a magic pill will cure any symptom that ails them. Moreover, the withdrawal process from the drug brings on some of the same symptoms such as insomnia, sweats and nervousness that prompted their use initially and patients don’t want to go through it.

Doctors are afraid to fight with their elderly patients about discontinuing the prescription. They are also under the mistaken notion that the process is too daunting. A Canadian study has shown that even a brochure with a schedule for weaning can have a dramatic effect on those wishing to make the change.

There is plenty of support out there if you want to find it. Doctors and healthcare professionals need to be more motivated identifying potential abusers and heed the long standing warnings of over prescribing these drugs. The elderly need to be fully counseled on the associated dangers and assisted in weaning themselves off these drugs.

David York Home Healthcare Agency is fully acquainted with all factors related to eldercare services and is always available to set up a senior care plan taking the whole patient into account. David York Agency provides skilled home health aide services for the elderly in their home and is abreast of all the latest guidelines for seniors.  Contact us at 718.376.7755 and visit our website. A nurse is waiting to take your call. You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.