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January 20, 2020 – Doctors often prescribe them to relieve acute anxiety, agitation or to help someone sleep. Taken over the long term, they can become addictive. In older adults, the drugs have been shown to increase the risk of falls, cloud judgment and impair memory … Women sought these prescriptions more than men and the number of visits increased with age. Nearly half of benzo prescription visits were to a primary care provider. Past studies have shown a growing number of primary care doctors have written these prescriptions.

In the new study, the data showed that a chronic condition was the most common reason that someone went to the doctor for this prescription. A mental disorder was the most frequent primary diagnosis category. Musculoskeletal system and connective tissue issues were the most frequent diagnosis if the patient also got a prescription for opioids at that doctor visit.

What stood out to Dr. Joanna Starrels was the number of elderly patients who were prescribed these drugs.

“The most alarming finding in this study are the numbers about the elderly, this is the population that face the most danger from the drugs,” said Starrels, an associate professor in the department of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She didn’t work on this research, but has studied these drugs. “The elderly face an elevated risk of falls, confusion, cognitive impairment, in addition to overdose. These risks increase even more when elderly patients are co-prescribed benzodiazepines with opioids. This is the reason why societies like the American Geriatrics Society caution against them.”



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