Which drugs increase the risk of falling in the elderly?

Originally published in Insidermedicine

Three distinct types of drugs that affect mental processes can increase the risk of falling when taken by adults over 60, according to research published in the latest edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Here are some facts about the risk of falling in the elderly:

• The risk of falling increases as one gets older and is higher in women than men

• About two-thirds of elderly people who experience a fall will fall again within six months

• At least one-thirds of falls in the home are caused by avoidable hazards such as small throw rugs or uneven flooring

Researchers from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver analyzed data taken from 22 studies that explored the relationship between medication use and falling among older adults. Together, these studies comprised nearly 80,000 participants over the age of 60 and involved nine distinct types of medications.

Complex analyses revealed that three types of medications were linked with an increased risk of falling in older adults: sedatives and hypnotics; antidepressants; and benzodiazepines. Sedatives and hypnotics are typically used to treat agitation and insomnia. Antidepressants are used for depression and anxiety. Benzodiazepines are also used for anxiety and include the commonly-prescribed pills Valium and Xanax.

Today’s research confirms earlier reports that certain types of drugs that can have a calming, sleep-inducing, or mood-elevating effect should be used with caution in adults over 60, especially if they are already at risk of falling or have fallen in the past. Never stop taking prescribed medication without first consulting your physician.