Benzodiazepines, although very habit-forming and addictive, are the second most commonly prescribed medication in the United States, especially for seniors and the elderly. With people over the age of 65 being prescribed them the most, per the information provided by our government agencies:
The rates of physician office visits at which benzodiazepines were prescribed increased with age: 13 visits per 100 adults aged 18–44, 33 visits per 100 adults aged 45–64, and 51 visits per 100 adults aged 65 and over. (CDC, 2020)
Why Are Older People Prescribed Benzodiazepines?
As people age, their ability to fall and stay asleep often becomes difficult. This occurs due to the diminished production of hormones that make a person feel sleepy. Another reason seniors will develop insomnia is due to medications that they may be taking for other serious medical problems that may disrupt their sleep or cause them anxiety.
The elderly are also less agile and therefore feel more afraid since many cannot physically protect themselves. Seniors need a lot of help as their bodies age. Depression and anxiety are common among older people since they have been living longer and have as many good experiences as they do bad.
What Is Dementia?
Rather than a specific disease, dementia refers to the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interfere with daily living activities. The term dementia refers to symptoms of Alzheimer’s or other disorders that can develop as a person ages. Other well-known conditions showing signs of dementia are Jakob Disease, Huntington’s Disease, Korsakoff Syndrome, and others. Dementia symptoms include:
- Having difficulty remembering things
- Confusion and poor judgment
- Speech and understanding difficulties
- Losing one’s way in a familiar neighborhood.
- Asking the same question over and over again
Are Dementia and Benzodiazepines Related?
The research that has been completed on whether or not benzodiazepine will cause dementia later in life is not well-founded. The scientists at the national institutes of health have concluded the following on this topic of debate:
The association between long-term benzodiazepine use and risk of dementia remains controversial. Studies focusing on the association between benzodiazepine use and dementia or cognitive decline in older adults have shown conflicting results. Some found an increased risk of dementia or cognitive impairment in benzodiazepine users, whereas others were inconclusive or reported a potential protective effect. (NIH)
Facts About Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines are primarily a type of mental health medication most commonly prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders. Benzodiazepines are classed as central nervous system depressants. These drugs’ actions will slow the heart and brain’s response, allowing the person to relax and calm down.
A ‘depressant’ medication is often referred to as a tranquilizer and is given when a person has experienced mental or physical trauma. Benzodiazepines also help minimize alcohol and drug withdrawal symptoms, treat seizure disorders, and reduce nerve and muscle spasms pain.
Addiction and Benzodiazepines
A lot of people abuse benzodiazepines. Benzo’s is slang for benzodiazepines, a drug often combined with alcohol or marijuana to get people high. Benzodiazepine abuse leads to addiction and will cause a person to experience withdrawal symptoms if they do not use them daily. The most familiar benzodiazepines that are known to cause misuse and addiction include:
What Treatment is Available for Seniors Addicted to Benzodiazepines?
Seniors will require a medically supervised detox to help clear benzodiazepines from their system under medical supervision. Still, older people’s medications and health conditions may not allow a medical detox for benzodiazepines and the addiction they create. Our programs to help the elderly will require an in-depth assessment by our medical staff and evaluations.
Many seniors struggle with a physical dependency on benzodiazepines and only a mild substance use disorder. We provided evidence base therapy and individualized treatment for mild to severe substance use disorder. We are available for immediate help by calling our representatives for detailed information about treatment for seniors.
Medically Reviewed: October 17, 2022
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.