Combining Sleeping Pills and Opioids Common Among Alzheimer’s Patients, Study Reports

Combining Sleeping Pills and Opioids Common Among Alzheimer’s Patients, Study Reports
Roughly 20 percent of Alzheimer’s disease patients in Finland combine sleeping pills (benzodiazepines) with strong painkillers (opioids), a practice that has been associated with serious risks, a study shows. These findings highlight the need for therapeutic strategies that reduce the unnecessary co-use of these compounds, according to the authors of the study. The study, “Concomitant use of benzodiazepines and opioids in community‐dwelling older people with or without Alzheimer's disease – A nationwide register‐based study in Finland,” was published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. According to recent estimates, the use of benzodiazepines — psychoactive medicines prescribed mainly to treat anxiety, seizures, and insomnia — is rising among older people, despite recommendations from the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) to avoid the use of benzodiazepines in older patients. Examples of benzodiazepines include Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam), among others. Among older patients, an estimated 30 percent of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease have been reported to take benzodiazepines, accounting for one of the largest groups of users. Benzodiazepines are approved for only short-term use, up to four weeks maximum, in older people due to treatment-associated risks, such as sedation, dependence, falls, and fractures. Combini
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