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Many of us take medication as we age but do we check to see if this medication may make us prone to falling? Older adults know they need to exercise as they get older to maintain balance and flexibility. They should also have their medications checked to find out if they can increase their risk of falls.

Medications that affect the brain, affect blood pressure or lower blood sugar tend to be the culprits. Drugs that affect brain function can cause tiredness, memory loss and confusion. Those which lower blood pressure can cause dizziness in adults.

What are the most common medications associated with falls?

  • Benzodiazepines such as lorazepam, diazepam and others have been shown to increase the risk of falls.
  • Prescription sedatives for insomnia or problems sleeping.
  • Antipsychotics, originally developed to help with schizophrenia and now being used for Alzheimer’s symptoms.
  • Mood stabilizers and anti-convulsants. Most of these medications were to treat seizures or stabilize those who were bipolar. They are now also used for dementia and nerve pain.
  • Anti-depressants. Almost all of these have been associated with increased risk of falls.
  • Opioid (narcotic) analgesics prescribed for pain. Examples are morphine, hydrocodone and fentanyl.
  • Anticholinergics which are over the counter sleeping aids as well as some prescription drugs.
  • Antihypertensives, used to treat high blood pressure.

If you or a loved one is taking one or more of these medications, have your doctor and pharmacist re-evaluate the drugs. Also the amounts you are taking and their side effects. Some medications do not work well with others. Their physical and emotional effects may change if you lose or gain weight.

Your healthcare provider may stop the medication if possible. Or switch you to an effective alternative drug or reduce the amount you have been prescribed. Always discuss which option is best for you. For more information on medication and falls, read Preventing Falls: 10 Types of Medication to Review if You’re Concerned About Falling.