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Sedatives Less Safe, More Used in Older Adults

Despite the risks of sedative drugs for older people, they are more likely to take these medicines than younger adults, a new study shows. The study focused on benzodiazepines. These drugs are used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Examples include alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium) and lorazepam (Ativan). The study was based on a U.S. prescription database for 2008. In that year, these medicines were prescribed for about 5% of adults ages 18 through 80. But among the oldest group, ages 65 through 80, nearly 9% took them. In all age groups, women were twice as likely as men to take sedatives. Almost one-third of older adults who used these medicines took them for at least 4 months. Long-term use may make them less effective. It also may increase the risk of addiction. Sedatives are known to increase the risk of falls, car accidents and confusion.

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