Antipsychotic Drug Use Dangerous for Elderly with Dementia

New research shows that elderly people suffering from dementia who are given antipsychotic drugs are more likely to end up in a hospital or die, even if the drugs are administered for a very short period of time.

Antipsychotic drugs are frequently used in nursing homes to address the behavioral issues caused by dementia, including aggression, agitation, and delirium. Physicians concede that alternatives to antipsychotics to address this type of behavior are limited.

Many experts feel behavioral interventions should be tried first and antipsychotics used as a last resort, “when the behavior or the psychiatric symptoms are really out of control and causing complete distress not only for the person suffering from Alzheimer’s, but for caregivers all around them,” said Maria Carrillo, director of medical and scientific affairs at the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago. “It’s important to work these things out with the physician and, of course, do follow-up very closely together, so you can make sure these antipsychotics are having the effect you want and, if not, discontinue them immediately.”

The study’s findings were presented in the most recent edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine.