A Systematic Review of Opioid and Benzodiazepine Misuse in Older Adults

Rachel D. Maree, Zachary A. Marcum, Ester Saghafi, Debra K. Weiner, Jordan F. Karp

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Objective The authors assessed the prevalence of opioid and benzodiazepine prescription drug misuse in older adults, the risk factors associated with misuse, and age-appropriate interventions. Methods Following PRISMA guidelines, a literature search of PubMed, PsycINFO, and EMBASE for peer-reviewed journal articles in English through April 2014 with updates through November 2015 was conducted for reports on misuse of prescription benzodiazepines and opioids in older adults. Relevant publications were reviewed that included participants age ≥65 years. Reference lists were manually searched for key identified articles and geriatric journals through April 2016. Information on the study design, sample, intervention, comparators, outcome, time frame, and risk of bias were abstracted for each article. Results Of 4,932 reviewed reports, 15 were included in this systematic review. Thirteen studies assessed the prevalence of prescription drug misuse and included studies related to opioid shopping behavior, assessment of morbidity and mortality associated with opioid and/or benzodiazepine use, frequency and characteristics of opioid prescribing, frequency of substance use disorders and nonprescription use of pain relievers, and health conditions and experiences of long-term benzodiazepine users. One study identified risk factors for misuse, and one study described the effects of provider education and an electronic support tool as an intervention. Conclusion There is a dearth of high quality research on prescription drug misuse in older adults. Existing studies are heterogeneous, making it difficult to draw broad conclusions. The need for further research specific to prescription drug misuse among older adults is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)949-963
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • geriatrics
  • prescription drug abuse
  • primary care
  • substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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