The Older Brain on Drugs: Substances That May Cause Cognitive Impairment

Jenny Rogers, MD; Bonnie S. Wiese, MD; Kiran Rabheru, MD, CCFP, FRCP

Disclosures

Geriatrics and Aging. 2008;11(5):284-289. 

In This Article

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are commonly used as anxyolitics and for insomnia (clonazepam [Klonopin®], lorazepam [Ativan®], triazolam [Halcion®]). Benzodiazepine use is associated with a host of cognitive and psychomotor side effects including episodic memory problems, poor concentration, disinhibition, drowsiness, dysarthria, motor incoordination, and falls.[31,32,33,34] Benzodiazepines slow reaction time, lead to visuospatial deficits, impair driving skills, and increase the risk of motor vehicle crashes, especially among older adults.[35,36] Memory impairment may be reversed when benzodiazepines are stopped.[37] Despite benzodiazepines being on the list of Beers criteria of inappropriate medications for older adults[1] and a trend towards decreased prescribing,[38] tranquilizers as a class comprised 5.3% of all prescriptions given to Canadian women over 60 in 2006.[39]

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