Select Page

Seniors and Medications II – 9 Medications Seniors Should Avoid or be Leery of


I don’t want to get on a moral high horse, but there are things we shouldn’t do because the consequences will always have a negative outcome. The same holds true for what is considered a healthy lifestyle. But as we age, our needs change. And some seniors need help, in varying degrees, through the use of medications or shots.


  • Muscle relaxants – The Independent Health, list several categories and drugs seniors should avoid. Regarding muscle relaxants, the list includes Flexeril, Robaxin, and Soma. Common side effects include confusion, dizziness, agitation, sleeplessness, overall weakness and fatigue.


  • Demerol (opioid pain relievers) – Citing research by industry professionals, AARP includes Demerol on their list of medications seniors should avoid. Side effects include “falls, seizures, confusion and even hallucinations, especially in older adults.”



  • Sleeping pills – Citing an interview with Leigh Ann Mike, Pharm.D., a clinical associate professor at the University of Washington’s School of Pharmacy, Ginger Skinner, editor for Elysium Health, writes that OTC (over the counter) drugs and prescription sleeping aids can be especially risky for seniors. “Side effects can include dry mouth, confusion, dizziness, next-day drowsiness, and impaired balance and coordination.”


  • AntidepressantsSalynn Boyles, an award-winning medical journalist, citing research done by the Ottawa Health Research Institute in Ontario, shares that “popular antidepressants like Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil may not be the best choices for treating depression in the very elderly. Certain drugs can increase the possibility of bleeding in the stomach or intestines, especially if they have had this issue before.


  • NSAIDs (Non- Steroid Anti-inflammatory Drugs)Examples of NSAID medications include aspirin, ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, Celebrex, Dolobid, and Lodine. Leslie Kernisan, MD, MPH, a leading expert in geriatric medicine and founder of Better Health While Aging, states there care multiple negative side effects that can be caused by NSAIDs. These include “increased risk of bleeding in the stomach, small bowel, or colon, problems with the stomach lining, decreased kidney function, interference with high blood pressure medications, and increased risk of heart failure.”


  • Digoxin (Lanoxin) – Commonly used to treat heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and heart failure, Digoxin can, as pointed out by a group from the University of Illinois-Chicago, have numerous side effects including diarrhea, dizziness, and headaches. More serious problems include skin rash, trouble breathing, blurred vision, confusion, nausea, and vomiting.


  • OTC productsSharon Orrange, M.D., MPH, an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, lists several OTC medications and their side effects. Downsides include muscle pain and weakness, bone loss, high potassium levels, nerve damage, falls and delirium, heart problems, joint pain, and low sodium levels. OTC medications she warns about include Simvastatin, Bactrim, Losartan, levofloxacin, Zolpidem, and Zaleplon.



This list is nothing more than a starting place for drugs seniors may need to avoid. In fact, the Beers Criteria, the standard-bearer for the AGS, lists in their 2019 update roughly 200 “medications that are potentially inappropriate in most older adults, those that should typically be avoided in older adults with certain conditions, drugs to use with caution, drug-drug interactions, and drug dose adjustment based on kidney function.”


I hope you see that there are side effects many drugs have. This does not mean they are evil, just that seniors especially need to be judicious and careful about their medication. In a perfect world, there would be no problems with medications. But this isn’t a perfect world, so we all need to on the alert about the pluses and minuses of the medications we ingest.