CHA News Article

NIH Says Benzodiazepine Use Highest in Older People

Prescription use of benzodiazepines — a widely used class of sedative and anti-anxiety medications — increases steadily with age, despite the known risks for older people, according to a comprehensive analysis of benzodiazepine prescribing in the U.S. by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The study found that among all adults 18 to 80 years old, about one in 20 received a benzodiazepine prescription in 2008, the period covered by the study. But this fraction rose substantially with age, from 2.6 percent among those 18 to 35, to 8.7 percent in those 65 to 80, the oldest group studied. Of people 65 to 80 who used benzodiazepines, 31.4 percent received prescriptions for long-term use, versus 14.7 percent of users 18 to 35. In all age groups, women were about twice as likely as men to receive benzodiazepines. Among women 65 to 80 years old, one in 10 was prescribed one of these medications, with almost one-third of those receiving long-term prescriptions. The study appears online in the Dec. 18 JAMA Psychiatry. More information is available from the NIH website.

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