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10 medications for older adults to avoid: By Amanda K. Williams, DO
August 11, 2015

Because older adults require treatment with multiple medications, there is a greater likelihood of experiencing unwanted side effects.  Older adults can be more sensitive to certain medications.  The American Geriatrics Society and Health in Aging Foundation makes helpful recommendation to decrease the chance of overmedication and serious drug reactions.  If you are taking any of the following medications, do not stop taking any medication without first talking to your healthcare provider.


Avoid the following medications:


1.    Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Examples are indomethacin (Indocin) and piroxicam (Feldene). NSAIDs are used to reduce pain and inflammation.  NSAIDs can increase the risk of indigestion, ulcers and bleeding in your stomach or colon.  They can also increase blood pressure, affect your kidneys, and make heart failure worse.

2.    Certain medications used for Anxiety and/or Insomnia: Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and choldiazepoxide (Librium), and sleeping pills such as zaleplon (Sonata) and zolpidem (Ambien).  These medications can increase your risk for falls and leave you feeling confused.  Because it takes your body a long time to get rid of these drugs, it could leave you feeling groggy and sleepy for a long time.

3.    Certain Anticholinergic Drugs: This includes the antidepressants amitriptyline (Elavil) and imipramine (Tofranil), anti-Parkinson drug trihexyphenidyl (Artane), overactive bladder drug oxybutynin (Ditropan), and irritable bowel syndrome drug diclyclomine (Bentyl). These drugs can cause problems urinating, constipation, confusion, blurry vision and low blood pressure.  Men with an enlarged prostate should be particularly cautious with these medications.

4.    Certain Over-the-Counter Products: Medications containing antihistamines, particularly diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton, AllerChlor).  Also, over-the-counter sleep products, i.e. Tylenol PM, which contains diphenhydramine.  Despite these medications being sold without a prescription, they are not risk free.  They may cause confusion, blurry vision, constipation, trouble urinating, and dry mouth.

5.    Muscle Relaxants: Examples are cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), methocarbamol (Robaxin) and carisoprodol (Soma). They can make you confused and groggy and increase your risk for falls.  They also cause constipation, dry mouth and problems with urination; moreover, there is little evidence that they work well.

6.    Digoxin (Lanoxin) in doses greater than 0.125 mg.  Digoxin is used to treat irregular heartbeats and heart failure.  It can be toxic in older adults and people whose kidneys do not work well.

7.    Certain Diabetes Drugs: Glyburide (Diabeta, Micronase) and chlorpropamide (Diabinese) can cause severe low blood sugar.

8.    If you are not being treated for psychosis, then Antipsychotics: For example, haloperidol (Haldol), quetiapine (Seroquel) and risperidone (Risperdal). These medications can increase your risk for stroke and even death.  They can also increase your risk for falls and cause tremors.

9.    Pain reliever, Meperidine (Demerol): Meperidine increases your risk for seizures and can cause confusion.

10.  Estrogen Pills and Patches: Typically prescribed for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.  They can increase your risk for blood clots, breast cancer, and even dementia. 


Again, if you are taking any of the above-mentioned medications, do not stop taking any medication without first talking to your healthcare provider.




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