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Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2011 Jan-Feb;33(1):45-50. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2010.12.004. Epub 2011 Jan 26.

High prevalence and prescription of benzodiazepines for elderly: data from psychiatric consultation to patients from an emergency room of a general hospital.

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Departament of Psychiatry, Hospital São Lucas da Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil.



The aim of this study is to compare the use and prescription of psychotropic drugs, with emphasis on benzodiazepines, in elderly and non-elderly patients who are assisted at the emergency room by a psychiatric consultation of a university teaching hospital.


This is a cross-sectional study. We analyzed all records of psychiatric consultation in an emergency room of a general hospital from March 2009 until March 2010. Sociodemographic and clinical variables were compared between the group of elderly and non-elderly in two cutoff points (≥60 and ≥65 years), with emphasis on the use and prescription of benzodiazepines.


Five hundred seventy-five records were found with 71 elderly and 504 nonelderly for the first cutoff point and 51 elderly and 524 nonelderly in the second. Differences between groups were found in all sociodemographic variables (gender, marital status, education, current occupational status). Elderly patients treated at emergency rooms used more psychotropic drugs, particularly antidepressants and benzodiazepines, than non-elderly. About 25% of the patients received benzodiazepine treatment in the emergency setting, and there was no statistical difference between age groups.


There is a wide prevalence of benzodiazepine use among elderly patients in a psychiatric emergency service. Despite the recommendations for its judicious use, benzodiazepines were the most commonly used drug by psychiatrists on duty, regardless of patient's age. These results call for caution in prescribing these drugs and require alternatives to the treatment of psychiatric disorders in the elderly.

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