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Salud mental

versão impressa ISSN 0185-3325


MINAYA, Omar; UGALDE, Oscar  e  FRESAN, Ana. Prescription drugs misuse: benzodiazepine dependence in the elderly. Salud Ment [online]. 2009, vol.32, n.5, pp.405-411. ISSN 0185-3325.

Misuse and potential abuse of prescription drugs are growing problems in elderly people over 65 years old. Although the prevalence of this condition is difficult to estimate, drug misuse is most common in elderly women. A great proportion of the psychoactive prescriptions in old people include tranquilizers and hypnotics. There are several risk factors related to increased risk misuse, abuse, and dependence of prescription drugs. The following are among these risk factors: the female gender, social isolation, history of substance abuse or dependence, history of mental illness and medical exposure to prescription drugs with abuse potential. Also, BDZ consumption for a period longer than four weeks has also been associated to BDZ dependence, even at therapeutic doses. Until now, BDZ dependence in the elderly has been poorly studied, so the present study may increase our knowledge of this complex phenomenon. Objective The aim of the present study was to describe and compare sociodemographic and clinical features related to the prescription and benzodiazepines use in old people with and without dependence to these drugs in an outpatients psychogeriatric service. Method A total of 39 patients from the outpatients service at the psychogeriatric clinic of the National Institute of Psychiatry Ramón de la Fuente in Mexico City were recruited. All of the participants signed an informed consent to be included in the study. Several assessments were performed to determine the psycho-pathological status. Diagnosis of BDZ dependence was obtained with the SCID-I Interview, the severity of depression and anxiety symptoms were evaluated through the Montgomery & Asberg Scale (MADRS) and the Hamilton Anxiety Scale, respectively. For the evaluation of the functionality level, the Katz Index and GAF were used. Results No significant differences were found between patients with and without BDZ dependence in terms of social and demographic characteristics and medical comorbidity. The main Axis I diagnoses of the patients were depressive disorder or anxiety disorders. The first medical prescription of BDZ in patients with BDZ dependence was the presence of anxiety symptoms, while for patients without BDZ dependence the aim of BDZ prescription was the treatment of insomnia. The mean age of BDZ use onset and the time of consumption were 57.5 years and 675.2 weeks, respectively. The average dose of BDZ used by the patients was 14.4mg of diazepam equivalents. Significant differences were found between groups in terms of BDZ consumption features. Patients with BDZ dependence exhibited more drug seeking behavior, more abandonment of daily activities, and more tolerance and abstinence symptoms. Patients with BDZ dependence exhibited more prominent symptoms of anxiety and depression than patients without BDZ dependence. Also, these patients had a poorer cognitive performance and lower psychosocial functioning. Discussion BDZ dependence is a complex phenomenon related to the severity of depressive and anxiety symptoms. These symptoms were the main reason for the medical prescription of BDZ. Although BDZ use was indicated for the treatment of anxiety disorders, the use of BDZ in the elderly has been contraindicated for the treatment of depression with anxiety features. The potential risk to develop BDZ dependence in elderly patients can be related to pharmacological variations due to changes in the metabolism process of aging and the interactions with other drugs. Both factors could increase half life of BDZ and their pharmacological effect in the organism. There were statistical differences in the drug-taking pattern of BDZ consumption in the patients. Patients with BDZ dependence had an earlier onset of BDZ consumption and longer use. The chronic use of BDZ is one of the most important risk factors for dependence development. For the present study, BDZ dependence was clinically defined in terms of tolerance and abstinence symptoms. This definition is in accordance to what has been described in international scientific literature as BDZ physiologic dependence. In this way, tolerance and abstinence symptoms might be the main reason why patients with BDZ dependence needed higher BDZ dosages for the treatment of anxiety symptoms. Sociodemographic characteristics in this sample were not related to the presence of BDZ dependence; nevertheless, it has been reported that the female gender and the presence of chronic pain are risk factors for BDZ abuse and dependence. Future longitudinal studies with an increased number of patients should assess the effect of these variables in BDZ dependence development in the elderly. Differences found in terms of cognitive performance may be related to the psychomotor retardation conferred by the use of BDZ, which may in turn have a direct impact on the velocity of mental performance in the patients. Also, the presence and severity of depressive and anxiety symptoms may also have a negative impact on cognitive performance. Generalization of the findings of the present research is limited by sample size. Nevertheless, the relevance of the present results highlight the importance of the careful prescription and inherent risks related to potentially addictive medications. Increasing our knowledge in the prescription of these medications will improve our medical attention and our patients' quality of life.

Palavras-chave : Benzodiazepine dependence; elderly; misuse; depression; anxiety.

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