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Elderly still given chemical cosh drugs

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Doctors are still giving powerful benzodiazepines as a chemical cosh, to subdue elderly patients, even before a diagnosis of Alzheimer`s disease is given. The practice becomes more common still after a diagnosis despite assurances from doctors that the practice was discredited and had been abandoned.

An Alzheimer`s patient is three times more likely to be given benzodiazepines than a healthy person of similar age. The drugs are prescribed within six months of diagnosis, and are often given for five years or longer, even though they are supposed to be given only for a short time.

Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland discovered the prevalence of benzodiazepine prescribing when they assessed the care of 51,981 people diagnosed with Alzheimer`s. They were compared with healthy people who were in the same age range.

The drugs are used to pacify patients, and help them sleep, even though there is poor evidence that they help with behavioural problems, say the researchers. Instead, they increase the risk of falls and also cause cognitive impairment.

(Source: Journal of Alzheimer`s Disease, 2015; published online, October 17, 2015)

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