25% of Older Adults Prescribed Benzos Go On to Long-Term Use

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From Scienmag: “On average, the patients were 78 years old when they received their first benzodiazepine prescription — an advanced age for use of the drugs, which national guidelines say should rarely if ever be given to adults over about age 65. Very few had had any sort of psychiatric, psychological or psychosocial care in the past two years.

While treatment guidelines recommend only short-term prescribing, if any, these long-term patients were prescribed nearly 8 months’ worth of medication after their initial prescription.

‘This study provides strong evidence that the expectations set out by a provider when they first write a new prescription carry forward over time,’ says David Oslin, M.D., of Penn Medicine and the Philadelphia VA, and senior author of the paper. ‘When a physician writes for 30 days of a benzodiazepine, the message to the patient is to take the medication daily and for a long time. This expectancy translates into chronic use which in the long run translates into greater risks like falls, cognitive impairment and worse sleep.’

‘Since mental health providers see only a very small minority of older adults who have mental health issues, we need to support primary care providers better as they manage these patients’ care,’ says Gerlach. ‘We must help them think critically about how certain prescriptions they write could increase the chance of long-term use.'”

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