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Certain Prescriptions May Significantly Boost the Risk of Falling For Mature Adults

Falling and fall related complications often have serious consequences for mature adults, including injuries leading to disability or admission to a nursing home and in some cases, even death.

It is known that certain kinds of prescription drugs may increase the risk of falling, especially among mature adults, but there has been little evidence to show which specific drugs are most dangerous.

Researchers from Newcastle University filled that void recently with a meta-analysis of 22 studies including 80,000 participants. Their findings are published in the November 23, 2009 Archives for Internal Medicine.

The researchers examined 9 different classes of drugs and found that three types of drugs resulted in the most falls:

1. Sedatives and hypnotics: Drugs that slow down the body’s functions and are often used as sleep aids.

2. Antidepressants: Medication used to alleviate mood disorders.

3. Benzodiazepines: Drugs such as Xanax and Valium that are widely prescribed for a range of conditions such as anxiety and insomnia.

The researchers also found an increased risk of falling among people taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, commonly knows as NSAIDs, such as aspirin and drugs for treating psychosis. They noted, however, that this higher risk of falling is likely linked to the conditions being treated, which tend to increase the likelihood of falling, rather than the drugs themselves.

The use of prescription drugs is steadily increasing among the mature adults. One recent Canadian study even found that 1 in 7 people over the age of 80 are on anti-depressants.

The researchers urge older individuals to consult with their physician and pharmacist to seek out the safest medication that fits their needs.

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