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How Can Medication Drugs Affect the Risk of Falls?

In the Canadian population, it is estimated that 20% to 30% of elderly persons fall every year. Falls are the main cause of injury-related hospitalizations in the elderly population and have had a major impact on their quality of life. Consequently, preventing falls by addressing the modifiable risk factors, such as medication use, is a must.

Why Would Medication Increase the Risk of Falls?

In the last few decades, medication drugs have greatly improved quality of life. Although taken to alleviate pain, medication can increase the elderly risk of falls in two (2) ways; on the one hand, by causing side effects and on the other hand, by inducing adverse drug reactions. Let us briefly discuss those two (2) concepts and how they relate to falls!

On the one hand, side effects are unintended effects, harmful or not, happening in your body because of the pharmacological properties of a drug. And so, some side effects can put you at increased risk for falls, such as:

  • Dizziness

  • Somnolence

  • Sudden pressure drop

  • Concentration impairment

  • Balance impairment.

On the other hand, adverse drug reactions are unintended and harmful events happening in your body in response to a medication. Therefore, if adverse drug reactions happen, they can put you at risk for falls. In fact, elderly persons are more likely to have those adverse drug reactions. Why is that? Because:

  • Elderly are more likely to take more than one medication at a time, which increases their risk of adverse drug reactions.

  • Physiological changes in elderly can affect the movement of drugs in the body (pharmacokinetics) and can also alter the body’s response to drugs (pharmacodynamics).

  • Elderly are more likely to have comorbidities (simultaneous presence of two or more diseases at a time), which increases their risk of adverse consequences when taking a medication.

Which Medication Drugs are the Main Culprits?

Certain drugs have shown an increased association with the risk of falls and so, developing awareness to the side effects of those drugs is beneficial to improve the quality of life of seniors. Below are a few examples of those drugs:

  • Antidepressants

  • Benzodiazepines

  • Hypnotics and sedatives

  • Antipsychotics and neuroleptics

Are There Any Prevention Strategies?

Yes. Prevention is key. Below are some tips and tricks that you can follow:

  • Always follow your prescribed dose of medication.

  • Keep with you at all times an up to date list of all drugs that you take. It is important to have a good understanding of your medication drugs; never be afraid to ask your physician or your pharmacist about their side effects.

  • Do not share a prescription drug with anyone.

  • Always look at expiration date of drugs and bring them back to the pharmacy, if expired.

  • Always talk to your physician or pharmacist before taking an off the counter drug to ensure that it doesn’t interfere with your prescription drugs, and so, prevent your falls.

  • Be aware which medication increases your risk of falls and act in consequence. Be vigilant.

Altogether, it is imperative to follow your physician’s recommendations in regard to your medication. With this in mind, following the advices presented above is a good start for an improved quality of life.


  1. De Jong, Van der Elst & Hartholt. (2013, Aug). Drug-related falls in older patients: implicated drugs, consequences, and possible prevention strategies. Retrieved October 19th, 2020, from

  2. Government of Canada. (2014, April 10). Seniors’ Falls in Canada: Second Report. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from

  3. World Health Organization. (n.d.). Definitions. Retrieved October 19th, 2020, from

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