American Geriatrics Society

View all recommendations from this society

Released February 21, 2013; revised April 23, 2015

Don’t use benzodiazepines or other sedative-hypnotics in older adults as first choice for insomnia, agitation or delirium.

Large scale studies consistently show that the risk of motor vehicle accidents, falls and hip fractures leading to hospitalization and death can more than double in older adults taking benzodiazepines and other sedative-hypnotics. Older patients, their caregivers and their providers should recognize these potential harms when considering treatment strategies for insomnia, agitation or delirium. Use of benzodiazepines should be reserved for alcohol withdrawal symptoms/delirium tremens or severe generalized anxiety disorder unresponsive to other therapies.


These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.

How The List Was Created

1-5: The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) established a work group chaired by the Vice Chair of Clinical Practice and Models of Care Committee (CPMC). Work group members were drawn from that committee, as well as the Ethics, Ethnogeriatrics and Quality and Performance Measurement (QPMC) committees. AGS members were invited to submit feedback and recommendations as to what they thought should be included in the list via an electronic survey. The workgroup first narrowed the list down to the top 10 potential tests or procedures. The workgroup then reviewed the evidence and sought expert advice to further refine the list to five recommendations, which were then reviewed and approved by the AGS Executive Committee and the Chairs/Vice Chairs of CPMC, Ethics and QPMC.

6-10: The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) used the same work group from its first list to develop its second list. The group was chaired by the Chair of Clinical Practice and Models of Care Committee (CPMC). Work group members were drawn from that committee, as well as the Ethics, Ethnogeriatrics and Quality and Performance Measurement (QPMC) committees. AGS members were invited to submit feedback and recommendations as to what they thought should be included in a Choosing Wisely® list via an electronic survey. The workgroup then narrowed the list down and reviewed the evidence, seeking expert advice to further refine the list to five recommendations, which were then reviewed and approved by the AGS Executive Committee and the Chairs/Vice Chairs of CPMC, Ethics and QPMC.

On April 23, 2015, AGS revised items 2,3,6,7,8 and 10. Read more about these changes and rationale.

Sources

Finkle WD, Der JS, Greenland S, Adams JL, Ridgeway G, Blaschke T, Wang Z, Dell RM, VanRiper KB. Risk of fractures requiring hospitalization after an initial prescription of zolpidem, alprazolam, lorazepam or diazepam in older adults. J Am Geriatr Soc. [Internet]. 2011 Oct;59(10):1883–1890.

Allain H, Bentue-Ferrer D, Polard E, Akwa Y, Patat A. Postural instability and consequent falls and hip fractures associated with use of hypnotics in the elderly: a comparative review. Drugs Aging [Internet]. 2005;22(9):749–765.

The American Geriatrics Society 2012 Beers Criteria Update Expert Panel. American Geriatrics Society Updated Beers Criteria for potentially inappropriate medication use in older adults. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012 Apr;60(4):616-31.

Kripke DF, Langer RD, Kline LE. Hypnotics’ association with mortality or cancer: a matched cohort study. BMJ Open. 2012 Feb 27;2(1):e000850.

Glass J, Lanctôt KL, Herrmann N, Sproule BA, Busto UE. Sedative hypnotics in older people with insomnia: meta-analysis of risks and benefits. BMJ. 2005 Nov 19;331(7526):1169.

Sivertsen B, Omvik S, Pallesen S, Bjorvatn B, Havik OE, Kvale G, Nielsen GH, Nordhus IH. Cognitive behavioral therapy vs zopiclone for treatment of chronic primary insomnia in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2006 Jun 28;295(24):2851-8.