Several major medical and psychiatric organizations, including the American Geriatrics Society, advise against using benzodiazepines or nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics in older adults. Despite these recommendations, benzodiazepines continue to be massively prescribed to a group with the highest risk of serious adverse effects from these medications. This article summarizes legitimate reasons for prescribing benzodiazepines in the elderly, serious associated risks of prescribing them, particularly when not indicated, barriers physicians encounter in changing their prescription patterns, and evidence-based strategies on how to discontinue benzodiazepines in older patients. Although more research is needed, we propose several alternatives for treating insomnia and anxiety in older adults in primary care settings. These include nonpharmacological approaches such as sleep restriction-sleep compression therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety or insomnia, and as well as alternative pharmacological agents.
Copyright © 2016 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.