Most, if not all, American seniors take multiple medications for the treatment all sorts of different ailments. According to a new study, the use of multiple medications that specifically affect the brain has starkly risen among the senior citizens in the United States. The lead author of this study is Dr. Donovan Maust, who is a geriatric psychiatrist at the academic medical center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
The study has revealed that that multiple medications that American seniors use include antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, opioid painkillers and tranquilizers. Based on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American seniors over the the age of 65 began to use twice as many drugs as they were before from 2004 to 2013 and onwards.
According to the estimate by the researchers behind this new study, approximately 3.7 senior citizens in the United States visit the doctor every year and all of them are taking multiple drugs, at least or even more. The researchers also noted that use of multiple medications among senior citizens is even greater in rural areas and they are apparently now taking thrice as many drugs as they were years ago.
Health officials are particularly concerned because many of the drugs that these seniors are taking include those that act on their central nervous system (CNS). They are concerned because the use of such drugs by seniors can potentially affect their ability to drive, cause cognitive and memory issues, and result in falls.
As mentioned, these American citizens are also taking opioid painkilling medications like Oxycontin, which also affect their brain. They take these painkillers in combination with other similar drugs, such as benzodiazepine tranquilizers like Valium and Xanax. This is particularly worrisome because the combined use of such medications by seniors poses a greater risk of death.
The fact that the study’s data is showing a rise in the use of multiple brain-affecting medications among American seniors suggests that they seem to greatly willing to seek assistance and take the necessary medication for mental health conditions. However, even this does not change the concerns regarding the combined use of these medications due to the serious risks they pose when taking together frequently.
Another finding that was a cause of concern for the researchers was that almost half of the senior citizens who are taking these medications in combination have not even been diagnosed with insomnia, or a mental health or pain condition. In other words, they do not have a formal prescription for the drugs they are taking. Typically, the drugs mentioned earlier are prescribed as a treatment for any of these three main types of conditions.
The researchers behind this new study are hopeful that health providers will now be prompted to change their prescribing guidelines for senior citizens over the age of 65. Moreover, these senior patients will hopefully themselves be encouraged to stop taking these drugs in combination, where possible, now that the potential risks of doing so have been revealed. The study that was mentioned and discussed above was recently published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal on February 13th, 2017.
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