Benzodiazepine Use of 50% of Elderly Patients is Not Monitored

Rob Wipond
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The American Psychiatric Association (APA) publication Psychiatric News has released an article about the recent British Medical Journal study finding strong links between long-term use of benzodiazepine drugs and increases in Alzheimer’s. “Somewhere along the way, the message got lost, and patients were allowed to use benzodiazepines for months and years,” Mohit P. Chopra, M.D., a member of the APA’s Council on Geriatric Psychiatry, told Psychiatric News.

The BMJ study found that “use of benzodiazepines for three months or more was associated with an increased risk — up to 51 percent — for (Alzheimer’s). The association increased even more with longer exposure,” reports Psychiatric News. The study was recently reviewed in detail by MIA Blogger Philip Hickey.

Chopra was not involved with the BMJ study, but told Psychiatric News that benzodiazepines should not be used on a daily basis for longer than four to six weeks.

“In 2012, the American Geriatric Society (AGS) updated its list of potentially inappropriate drugs for older adults to include benzodiazepines, precisely because of cognitive side effects,” reports Psychiatric News. “Yet, AGS reported, almost 50 percent of older adults who have been prescribed benzodiazepines continue to use such drugs without any formal monitoring system to indicate how they are responding to the drugs.”

Long-Term Use of Benzodiazepines May Be Linked to Alzheimer’s (Psychiatric News, October 15, 2014)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a Victoria, British Columbia-based freelance journalist who has been writing on mental health issues for fifteen years. His research has particularly focused on the interfaces between psychiatry, the justice system, and civil rights. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, six Western Magazine Awards, and four Jack Webster Awards for journalism. He can be contacted through his website.

7 COMMENTS

  1. If my old age includes alzheimer’s , senile dementia and stuff like that, my psychiatric living will says give me Valium and Morphine for “agitation” and stay the F away from me with the Haldol , Zyprexa ect.

    I want to be high till I die not vegetated and akathisiated. I’ll go to rehab in my next life.

  2. I don’t know if I should sing for joy that the truth about psychiatric harm and abuse carried out against our elders is being acknowledged by the a mainstream organization like APA or cry because another ‘Oops: we made a mistake” was quietly issued and the message is being controlled by a nefarious messenger whose main interest is controlling the damage to the image of psychiatry. How many “oops” messages have to be leaked before we. as a nation, demand an end to the authority held by American psychiatrists? This profession is absolutely devoid of integrity and compassion.
    We have to continue to go after the Achilles Heel of psychiatry: the psychiatric abuse of children, the elderly, people of color, Veterans, and sexual abuse victims. Nibble around the edges of this holocaust by rescuing all the vulnerable populations whose main ‘illness’ was to be an inconvenience to their caregivers, then go in and rescue everyone with the label: “severely, persistently mentally ill” Not one person left behind! Everyone can recover and live a fulfilling, independent life with meaning and productivity and happiness. Absolutely everyone. But first overthrow the bums who make people worse, not better. Overthrow the bums who profit off illness and replace those bums with people whose main purpose for living is not to make money and enjoy power but to empower others, and to build community, trust, and democracy for all!
    \

    • OK maybe the entire profession of psychiatry isn’t devoid of integrity and compassion. I got a little heated up when I saw this article possibly linking benzo use to Alzheimers. When my mother-in-law at age 81 lost her husband of sixty years, I was shocked when my sister-in-law insisted, before my father-in-law’s body was even lowered into the ground that my dear, sweet mother-in-law get a prescription for anti depressants, which she did, unbelievably, to be compliant. Within less than two years, she went from being high functioning living in her own home, with frequent bridge parties, and friends to completely out of it with a debilitating case of Alzheimers, living in a skilled nursing facility. Within two years of starting a psych drug, without any prior psychiatric diagnosis or diagnosis of Alzheimers, she went into a vegetative state and now doesn’t even remember how to go the bathroom. While I can’t definitively say that her quick decline was linked to an SSRI, I suspect that it had something to do with it. What kind of a world are we living in that we consider life so cheap?

    • We are all in this lifeboat together and no-one is a ‘throw away’. I don’t believe in triaging services to the mentally ill based on color, age, sexual orientation, privilege, criminal histories, or diagnosis. But I believe in developing both short term and long term strategies for change based on cultural, economic and political realities. I believe that the demise of coercive psychiatry and the monopoly of pharmacological treatment as the main cornerstone of mental health services is a vision and not a goal. Since the revolution will not happen overnight we may as practice our organizing and coalition building skills by chipping away at psychiatry’s abusive authority on those victims who are more poster friendly such as children and the elderly.