Benzodiazepines and sedative-hypnotic drugs (BZD/SHDs), such as zopiclone and the antidepressant trazodone, pose risks such as falls, fractures, and confusion, especially for older adults. Use of these drugs in the acute care setting is poorly understood.
To determine the point prevalence and characteristics of use of BZD/SHDs in hospitals in Nova Scotia, Canada.
A point prevalence survey was conducted for adults admitted to all hospitals with at least 30 acute care beds between May and August 2016. Drugs administered intravenously, patients in long-term care, and patients receiving mental health services, addiction treatment, or critical care were excluded. The proportion of included patients who had received a BZD/SHD within the 24 h before the start of the survey was determined. A descriptive statistical analysis was performed.
Overall BZD/SHD prevalence was 34.6% (487/1409) across the 16 eligible hospitals. The average age was 70.3 years, and 150 (30.8%) of the patients were 80 years or older. Among the 585 prescriptions for these patients, commonly used drugs were zopiclone (32.0%), lorazepam (21.9%), and trazodone (21.9%). The most common indications for use were bedtime/daytime sedation (60.0%) and anxiety (12.5%). More than half of the prescriptions (55.7%) had been initiated at home, 37.6% were started in hospital, and the place of initiation was unknown for 6.7%. Benzodiazepines were prescribed more frequently to patients under 65 years than those 80 years or older (41.3% versus 22.2%, < 0.001) whereas trazodone was more frequently prescribed to the older of these 2 age groups (52.7% versus 14.3%, < 0.001).
BZD/SHDs were frequently used by hospitalized adult patients in Nova Scotia. Trazodone appears to have been substituted for benzodiazepines in the oldest age group. Pharmacists should direct their efforts toward preventing inappropriate initiation of BZD/SHDs in hospital, particularly for elderly patients.

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