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The Dangers of Benzodiazepine Use in the Elderly

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

More senior citizens take benzos than any other age group. And yet, they are also the group most at-risk for complications. What are the effects of this dangerous combination? And what can be done to buck the overprescribing trend?

In today’s episode, we look at the stats, the warnings, and the consequences of benzodiazepine and Z-drug use in the elderly. We also shine the spotlight on the website, share a story from Grand Junction, Colorado, and discuss anti-depressants and sleepless nights.

Video ID: BFP015


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00:00 Introduction 06:41 Mailbag 12:02 Benzo News 14:45 Benzo Spotlight 18:30 Benzo Story 25:40 Feature: Benzos and the Elderly 44:03 Moment of Peace



The following resource links are provided as a courtesy to our listeners. They do not constitute an endorsement by Easing Anxiety of the resource or any recommendations or advice provided therein.




FEATURE: Benzos and the Elderly


  • American Geriatrics Society (AGS). “American Geriatrics Society 2015 Updated Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults.” Beers Criteria Update Expert Panel (2015). Accessed April 9, 2018.

  • Ashton, C. Heather. Benzodiazepines: How They Work and How to Withdraw (aka The Ashton Manual). 2002. Accessed April 13, 2016.

  • Billioti de Gage, Sophie, Yola Moride, Thierry Ducruet, Tobias Kurth, Hélène Verdoux, Marie Tournier, Antoine Pariente and Bernard Bégaud. “Benzodiazepine Use and Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease: Case-Control Study.” BMJ 349(g5205)(2014). Accessed January 30, 2017. doi:10.1136/bmj.g5205.

  • Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Prescribing Guidelines for Pennsylvania: Safe Prescribing Benzodiazepines for Acute Treatment of Anxiety & Insomnia. Updated May 15, 2017. Accessed April 7, 2018.

  • Cook, J.M., R. Marshall, C. Masci, and J.C. Coyne. “Physicians’ perspectives on prescribing benzodiazepines for older adults: a qualitative study.” Journal of General Internal Medicine 2007 Mar;22(3):303-7. Accessed April 22, 2019.

  • Foster, D E. Benzo Free: The World of Anti-Anxiety Drugs and the Reality of Withdrawal. Erie, Colorado: Denim Mountain Press, 2018.

  • Frances, Allen. “Yes, Benzos Are Bad for You.” Pro Talk: A Community, June 10, 2016. Accessed October 13, 2016.

  • Gerlach LB, Maust DT, Leong SH, Mavandadi S, Oslin DW. “Factors Associated With Long-term Benzodiazepine Use Among Older Adults.” JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(11):1560–1562. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.2413

  • Maust, Donovan T., Helen C. Kales, Ilse R. Wiechers, Frederic C. Blow, Mark Olfson. “No End in Sight: Benzodiazepine Use in Older Adults in the United States.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 64(12)(December 2016):2546-53. Accessed February 17, 2017. doi:10.1111/jgs.14379.

  • Olfson, M., M. King and M. Schoenbaum. “Benzodiazepine Use in the United States.” JAMA Psychiatry 72(2)(February 2015):136-42. Accessed March 7, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.1763.

  • Pariente, Antoine, Sophie Billioti de Gage, Nicholas Moore and Bernard Bégaud. “The Benzodiazepine–Dementia Disorders Link: Current State of Knowledge.” CNS Drugs 30(1)(January 2016):1-7. Accessed December 12, 2016. doi:10.1007/s40263-015-0305-4.

  • Saarelainen, Laura, Anna-Maija Tolppanen, Marjaana Koponen, Antti Tanskanen, Jari Tiihonen, Sripa Hartikainen and Heidi Taipale. “Risk of Death Associated with New Benzodiazepine Use Among Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease — a Matched Cohort Study.” International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (November 15, 2017). Accessed April 8, 2018. doi:10.1002/gps.4821.

  • Schweitzer, Edward, George Case, and Karl Rickels. “Benzodiazepine Dependence and Withdrawal in Elderly Patients.” The American Journal of Psychiatry; Washington 146(4)(April 1989):529-31. Accessed April 22, 2019.

  • Span, Paula. “The New Old Age: A Quiet Drug Problem Among the Elderly.” The New York Times. March 16, 2018. Accessed April 22, 2019.

  • Zahid, Hina. “Once prescribed, 25% of elderly become dependent on benzodiazepines: JAMA.” Speciality Medical Dialogues. September 13, 2018. Accessed April 22, 2019.



In today’s intro, I rambled on a bit, as I often do, about the elderly, a blog post I wrote about my dad, but most of all about loss. The loss so many of us feel from those years were trapped on the drugs.



This is where we share questions and comments which were discussed:

  • COMMENT: You could attract more listeners if you included anti-depressants in your content. This comment was from Sara in Memphis, Tennessee. She suggested that I could draw more listeners if I included anti-depressants in the content. I agreed and suggested I would try and be more inclusive, but that our primary focus will still be on benzos.

  • QUESTION: I would love for you to do a “bedtime” podcast. This question was from Karla in Chino Hills, California. She suggested I do a “bedtime” version of the podcast for people to listen to when they have insomnia. This was a great idea and I asked for suggestions of what it would entail.


Benzo News

We discussed a variety of stories around the benzo community in this section today.


Benzo Spotlight

Today’s spotlight was on the website This is the home to the Ashton Manual and thousands of links related to benzos, studies, articles and other information.


Benzo Stories

Today’s story was from Jill in Grand Junction, Colorado.



Today’s featured topic: The Effects of Benzodiazepines and Z-drugs on the Elderly

The senior population around the world is an at-risk group, especially when it comes to the effects of certain drugs like benzos. Unfortunately, they are also the most likely to take these drugs. In today’s feature, I shared several statistics, studies, and articles about the dangers of the overprescribing of these drugs in the elderly population.


The Podcast

The Benzo Free Podcast provides information, support, and community to those who struggle with the long-term effects of anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines (Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Valium) and Z-drugs (Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata).


All content provided by Easing Anxiety is for general informational purposes only and should never be considered medical advice. Any health-related information provided is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat health problems, or to prescribe any medical devices or other remedies. Never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it. Please visit our website for our complete disclaimer at


Music provided / licensed by Storyblocks Audio

Benzo Free Theme

— Title: “Walk in the Park”

— Artist: Neil Cross


Easing Anxiety is produced by…

Denim Mountain Press

©2022 Denim Mountain Press – All Rights Reserved


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