To provide a focused review of the literature related to the association between exposure to Z-drugs and the risk of falls, especially in the older population.
A literature search was conducted using Medline, PsychInfo, and the Cochrane Library database for all clinical trials, case series, and case reports published in English up to May 2020. The search terms used consisted of each Z-drug, including “zolpidem,” “zopiclone,” “eszopiclone,” and “zaleplon,” matched with “falls.”
The search yielded 295 studies. After review of abstracts, content and references were reviewed, and duplicates removed, a total of 9 articles met inclusion of exposure to at least 1 Z-drug and a primary outcome of falls.
The American Geriatrics Society 2019 Beers Criteria Update for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults recommends to avoid using nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics in this patient population because of the risk of adverse events.
A majority of the literature suggests an increased risk of falls with exposure to Z-drug use, especially zolpidem. Eight trials examined falls as a primary outcome in non-elderly (n=3) and elderly (n=5) patients in different settings, mostly in an inpatient setting (nursing facility or acute care hospital).
Exposure to Z-drugs, especially zolpidem, should be evaluated and counseled on continuously as these medications put patients at an increased risk for falls and other complications.