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SSRI Side Effects May Include Nursing Home Falls

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Boston, MANew research conducted by scientists at the Institute for Aging Research of Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, Massachusetts, suggests that SSRI side effects may now also include an increased risk for falls by nursing home residents.

According to HealthDay, the researchers discovered that in the days after they begin taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, nursing home residents have a much higher risk of falling. Additionally, this risk was seen in patients who had an increase in dosage of the prescription.

"Our results identify the days following a new prescription or increased dose of a non-SSRI antidepressant as a window of time associated with a particularly high risk of falling among nursing home residents," wrote Dr. Sarah D. Berry, a scientist at the Institute for Aging Research of Hebrew SeniorLife and the lead author of the study.

In order to prevent such instances of falls, the researchers noted that it could be helpful to better monitor such patients in the days after they begin taking the medications or after receiving higher doses.

During the study, which was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, researchers looked at 1,181 cases of nursing home falls. The researchers reportedly discovered a five-fold increase in falls within two days of patients receiving new or higher doses of the drugs. However, the rate appeared to decrease each day after the prescription change.

Berry wrote that some of the possible causes for the increased risk of falls among nursing home patients could be consequential cognitive effects of the SSRIs that have not been completely studied as well as potential coordination problems linked with the medications.

In a release, Berry said that the benefits of the medications may still outweigh the increased risk for falls, as long as patients are closely monitored in the days after starting to take the drugs.

"Nursing home staff should keep a watchful eye on residents in the days following a non-SSRI antidepressant change to prevent falls and clinicians should avoid making changes on weekends or during times when unfamiliar staff is present," Berry said in the release, the news source reported.

According to the Mayo Clinic, SSRIs work by changing levels of certain naturally occurring brain chemicals. Brand names of these drugs include Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac, among others.

SSRIs have also been linked to birth defects such as autism, according to recent studies.


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