Benzodiazepine Dependence - in The Elderly

In The Elderly

See also: Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome#Elderly

Long-term use and benzodiazepine dependence is a serious problem in the elderly. Failure to treat benzodiazepine dependence in the elderly can cause serious medical complications. The elderly have less cognitive reserve and are more sensitive to the short (e.g., in between dose withdrawal) and protracted withdrawal effects of benzodiazepines, as well as the side-effects both from short-term and long-term use. This can lead to excessive contact with their doctor. Research has found that withdrawing elderly people from benzodiazepines leads to a significant reduction in doctor visits per year, it is presumed, due to an elimination of drug side-effects and withdrawal effects.

Tobacco and alcohol are the most common substances that elderly people get a dependence on or misuse. The next-most-common substance that elderly people develop a drug dependence to and/or misuse is benzodiazepines. Drug-induced cognitive problems can have serious consequences for elderly people and can lead to confusional states and "pseudo-dementia". About 10% of elderly patients referred to memory clinics actually have a drug-induced cause that most often is benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines have also been linked to an increased risk of road traffic accidents and falls in the elderly. The long-term effects of benzodiazepines are still not fully understood in the elderly or any age group. Long-term benzodiazepine use is associated with attentional and visuospatial functional impairments. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can lead to improved alertness and decreased forgetfulness in the elderly. Withdrawal led to statistical significant improvements in memory function and performance related skills in those having withdrawn successfully from benzodiazepines, whereas those having remained on benzodiazepines experienced worsening symptoms. People having withdrawn from benzodiazepines also felt their sleep was more refreshing, making statements such as "I feel sharper when I wake up" or "I feel better, more awake", or "It used to take me an hour to fully wake up." This suggests that benzodiazepines may actually make insomnia worse in the elderly.

Read more about this topic:  Benzodiazepine Dependence

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