Currently there are approximately 31.5 million Americans 65 years and older. This number is expected to reach 39.3 million by 2010. This group represents 12% of the population, however, they use 25% to 40% of the prescription medications, averaging 4.5 medications daily; 75% of them use over-the-counter medications as well. This population has also experienced an increase in the prescription of central nervous system (CNS) medications. Benzodiazepines are the most widely prescribed class of CNS antianxiety/sedative medication. This article examines the use of benzodiazepines in relation to physiological, pharmacokintic, and pharmacodynamic changes of the older adult. The amnestic properties of these drugs in relation to the already decreasing cognitive function of the older adult are explored in relationship to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, criteria for substance-induced persisting amnestic disorder.
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