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Drug Induced Falls

Use of medicines, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or antidepressants. Even some over-the-counter medicines can affect balance and how steady you are on your feet.

In theory, ANY drug that causes one of the following effects can increase the risk of falling:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Hypotension
  • Parkinsonian effects
  • Ataxia/gait disturbance Vision disturbance

Greatest risk:

  • Sedative / hypnotics
  • benzodiazepines, especially long half life (Valium)
  • Blood pressure medicines – too much, get up too fast, dizzy and fall.

Alcohol plus any drug increasing fall risk – overall significantly greater fall risk.

Falls account for over 8 million hospital emergency room visits, representing the leading cause of visits (21.3%). Slips and falls account for over 1 million visits, or 12% of total falls. The CDC also reports that approximately 1.8 million people over the age of 65 were treated in an emergency room as a result of a fall. For people aged 65-84 years, falls are the second leading cause of injury-related death; for those aged 85 years or older, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death.
Incidence of falls goes up with each decade of life.

Fractures are the most serious consequences of falls and occur in 5% of all people who fall.

Slips and falls are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims and are the leading cause of occupational injury for people aged 55 years and older.

Half of all accidental deaths in the home are caused by a fall. Most fall injuries in the home happen at ground level, not from an elevation. Of all fractures from falls, hip fractures are the most serious and lead to the greatest health problems and number of deaths. The following statistics describe the slip-and-fall crisis affecting our nation’s elderly. Each year in the United States, one of every three persons over the age of 65 will experience a fall. Half of which are repeat fallers. According to the CDC In 2005, more than 15,000 people over the age of 65 died as a result of a fall. Up from 7,700 a decade earlier.

See Barbara Cadario and BC Falls and Injury Prevention Coalition. Drugs and the Risk of Falling: Guidance Document. Revised August 2011.

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