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Prescription Drugs
prescription medicines
Senior Health

5 Potentially Dangerous Medications in People 65 and Older

It’s no secret that our bodies change over time, but what you may not realize is that these changes can affect the way some drugs work in our bodies. In fact, by the time we hit 65, some drugs—whether prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) — may act differently in your body, but you might actually think the side effects are just signs of getting older.

Keep reading for five drugs that may be in your medicine cabinet to ask your doctor about if you’re 65 years of age or older. But first, please understand that these are just some general tips to help guide your discussion with your doctor and should not to be taken as medical advice. Because everyone’s different, what works for you might not work for someone else, and vice versa.

1. Benzodiazepines: Doctors prescribe these drugs for conditions like sleeplessness, depression, to calm your nerves, and even shaky hands.  However, the effects of certain benzodiazepines— like chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and diazepam (Valium) — take longer to wear off than others.  This means some of the drugs’ benefits might turn into side effects like confusion and fall risk before their effects wear off. Yet some people age 65 and older may take either of these drugs without any problems. If you’re one of these people, you might be okay, but it’s still doesn’t hurt to ask your doctor — just in case. However, if you’ve fallen within the last several months, you should definitely talk to your doctor about switching to a different benzodiazepine or a different drug class.

2. Antihistamines: It wasn’t too long ago that antihistamines were considered a major risk for increasing falls. While falling is perhaps one of the more dangerous side effects, antihistamines can also cause dry mouth, dry eyes, increase trouble urinating, and even confusion. Taking diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for a few days should generally be okay for that runny nose or high pollen counts if you don’t notice any of these issues. However, as with benzodiazepines, if you already have trouble balancing, have fallen in the past, or have fallen recently, you might want to ask your doctor or pharmacist about other drugs that may be safer for your condition.

3. Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs): Even though we now have many other drug choices for depression, doctors still use TCAs such as amitriptyline (Elavil) or nortriptyline (Pamelor) to treat depression and other conditions. Like antihistamines, they can cause a lot of the same potentially dangerous side effects including dry mouth, dizziness, and confusion in older persons. These drugs might also make certain conditions worse. For example, they may decrease the ability to function in people with dementia and make it more difficult for people with bladder problems to use the bathroom.