Symptoms associated with long-term benzodiazepine use in elderly individuals aged 65 years and older: A longitudinal descriptive study

Sari Vaapio, Juha Puustinen, Marika J. Salminen, Tero Vahlberg, Maritta Salonoja, Alan Lyles, Sirkka Liisa Kivelä

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Summary Background Recent epidemiologic studies have shown that the use of psychotropics is associated with many symptoms and may result in dependence and tolerance among elderly individuals. The aim of this study was to describe the symptoms related to withdrawal or dose reduction of long-term benzodiazepine (BZD) or BZD-related drugs (RDs) use and to compare them with nonuse of these drugs in community-dwelling individuals aged 65 and older. Methods The study was a post hoc analysis embedded in a 12-month randomized, controlled fall-prevention trial that included withdrawal of BZDs and RDs. The participants (n = 248) in the intervention group were divided into the following four groups according to their use of BZDs/RDs at baseline and follow-up: (1) withdrawal (WG), (2) reduction (RG), (3) unchanged (UG), and (4) nonusers (NUG). Differences in symptom changes were compared between and within these four groups. Results Using BZD/RD was associated with numerous symptoms at baseline and during the intervention. At follow-up, those symptoms reduced significantly among all participants. However, there were no significant differences between the groups in the changes of symptoms during the follow-up. Self-perceived health improved in only NUG (p < 0.001), but not in the other groups (WG, RG, and UG). Conclusion Withdrawal or reduction of BZD/RD produced positive effects on physical, psychological, or cognitive symptoms among all participants, but no differences between the groups were detected. We recommend that clinical goals should be carefully assessed against the risks of long-term BZD/RD use, and that withdrawal interventions should be initiated for community-dwelling users aged 65 and older, especially those long-term users who may already be experiencing adverse drug effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number272
Pages (from-to)34-39
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Gerontology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • aged
  • psychotropics
  • reduction
  • symptoms
  • withdrawal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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