this study evaluated the consumption of psychotropic medications by caregivers of elderly patients with or without dementia. this was a cross-sectional study conducted at all geriatric units in brasília, brazil, during a two-month period. structured interviews were performed with 311 caregivers of people with or without dementia and they completed questionnaires. among the caregivers, 196 (63%) were caregivers of patients with dementia and 115 (37%) were caregivers of patients without dementia. forty-four caregivers (14.1%) were taking psychotropic drugs (benzodiazepines or antidepressants), and this usage was more frequent among caregivers of patients with dementia (p<0.01). twenty-two caregivers of patients with dementia (11.4%) had used sleeping pills after beginning care, compared with only five (4.3%) caregivers of patients without dementia (p<0.01). in conclusion, this study found that caregivers of patients with dementia took psychotropic drugs (benzodiazepines and antidepressants) more frequently than the ones of patients without dementia.