In general, elderly people are more sensitive to medications that affect central nervous system function. Drugs of particular relevance in this regard are benzodiazepines, major tranquillisers and antidepressants, which are all frequently used by elderly patients. In a study of medicine use in general practice, psychotropic drugs were prescribed more commonly than any other group and accounted for up to one-fifth of all prescriptions (Skegg et al., 1977). The proportion of patients receiving such medicines increased steadily with age: 21.4% of men and 29.9% of women over 75 years of age were receiving a sedative or hypnotic. Adverse reactions due to psychotropic drugs are known to be a frequent cause of hospital admission in the elderly (Williamson and Chopin, 1980; Hallas et al., 1992).
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