International Day of Older Persons 2017 - Risks Associated with Inappropriate Use of Benzodiazepines

The International Day of Older Persons (1 October) raises awareness of the importance of older people and the challenges of ageing in today's world.

On this occasion, the International Narcotics Control Board would like to reiterate the importance of the contributions older persons make to their families, communities and societies at large, and of our common duty to create and ensure environments that allow them to do so.

While ageing is by no means an illness, old age is often accompanied by illness, which increases the likelihood of being overmedicated, under-medicated or medicated unnecessarily. In general, older persons are more prone to adverse reactions to medications because they tend to eliminate it more slowly and for that reason often need lower doses.

The Board would therefore like to recall the importance of sensible use of medication for better care of older persons. Governments are encouraged to adopt and implement measures to prevent over-prescription of controlled substances, and should be alert to adverse reactions and problems resulting from their overuse and misuse, in particular among older persons.

Additionally, the Board would also like to reiterate that safety, adverse drug reactions and the simultaneous use of other substances should be carefully considered before any medication containing controlled substances is prescribed to older patients. Governments are thus encouraged to make available guidelines for clinical care and training to health-care providers, in particular nursing homes and geriatric care facilities, but also raise awareness among families of older persons, caregivers, nursing staff and employees at residential facilities for older persons.

INCB addressed this issue in its 2015 Annual Report in a special topic, "The use of benzodiazepines among older adults".

©1995-2023 International Narcotics Control Board