Numerous studies have found a link between psychotropic drugs, such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants, with an increased risk of falls and fractures in older adults (65 and older).
This is particularly disturbing since one-in-four older adults take a benzodiazepine medication, and that there is a disturbing rise in benzodiazepine medications in the US.
A recent study confirmed the link between benzodiazepine use and falls and fractures albeit with some questions.
Researchers found that, “compared with those older adults who were not prescribed an antidepressant, incident antidepressant users had a higher risk of hip fracture at all points during the year before and after taking the antidepressant, with the period of the most elevated risk at 30 to 16 days before an antidepressant was administered.”
There is, however, some discussion about direct cause as the researchers thought other factors could be at play. Nevertheless, they found “during the postfracture period, rightly or wrongly, antidepressants are prescribed at a high rate.”
What is further troubling is that even though this increased risk is well understood by primary care clinicians and psychiatrists, the use of these drugs continues to rise among older adults. This is particularly troubling because falls and fractures can lead to premature death in the elderly. Increasing the likelihood of falling due to these types of psychotropic medications seems like an unnecessary risk especially since taking these medications could precipitate an early death among those over 65 years of age.
Therefore, caution is advised. If you have an elderly loved one who is taking a benzodiazepine or antidepressant medication, you may want to talk with him/her and their doctor to see if discontinuation is appropriate. At the very least, close monitoring is essential.
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1. de Jong, Marlies R, et al. “Drug-related falls in older patients: implicated drugs, consequences, and possible prevention strategies.” Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety, 4 Aug. 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4125318/
2. Donnelly, Karen, et al. “Benzodiazepines, Z-drugs and the risk of hip fracture: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” PLOS One, 27 April 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5407557/
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6. "One in four older adults prescribed a benzodiazepine goes on to risky long-term use." Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan, Sep 2018, https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-09/mm-u-1i4090718.php
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