Anxiety drugs may be overprescribed for older women

A lot of older Americans, particularly women, are still being prescribed sedatives and anti-anxiety medications for long periods, even though these drugs are meant for short-term treatment of anxiety and sleep problems.

A recent study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, found that in 2008, 12 percent of American women over 80 were taking benzodiazepines, usually the brands of valium and xanax. These drugs have been linked to an increased risk of both falls and dementia and, according to the American Geriatrics Society, should be avoided in the elderly.

The researchers also found that almost one-third of Americans between the ages of 65 and 80 used tranquilizers on a long-term basis--four months or more.

The researchers at Columbia University Medical Center pointed out that in addition to increasing the chance of falls and impaired thinking, these medications, if taken for long periods, are more likely to become habit-forming and cause serious withdrawlal symptoms if they're discontinued.

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Sourced from: Reuters Health News, Elderly overprescribed sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs