Using pain and sleep drugs frequently may double frailty risk

Many older Americans to use two or more prescription drugs at the same time and many of these prescription drugs are for pain and sleep, including analgesics and sedatives.

A recent study from the Oregon Research Institute and elsewhere found strong links between self-reported regular use of prescription drugs for pain and/or sleep, and longitudinal risk of frailty in adults ages 65 and older.

Frailty consists of deficits in a variety of functional measures and is a reliable predictor of loss of independence, increased use of health care resources, and mortality.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society. One author is Gulcan Cil, Ph.D., an associate scientist.

In the study, the team estimated long-term frailty risks and rank the long-term risks of two classes of prescription drugs.

They analyzed data from the Health & Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative longitudinal cohort of older Americans.

For their analysis, they selected 7,201 community-living non-frail older adults (age 65 to 104).

They found over eight years of follow-up, those who self-reported regular use of prescription drugs for pain and sleep had a 95% increased risk of frailty compared to those who did not report regular use of these drugs.

For regular prescription drug use for pain only or for sleep only, the increased risks were 58% and 35%, respectively.

The study shows that regular self-reported use and co‐use of prescription drugs for pain and for sleep are strongly linked to increased incidence of frailty.

The team says further research will estimate the frailty risk of pain and sleep measures and of prescription pain and sleep drugs.

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