Bmj.com has published an article from The British Medical Journal about a study showing that antipsychotics are not a good option for people with dementia. I wrote about antipsychotics for OurAlzheimer's, before, in a post titled "For Dementia Patients, Drugs Shouldn't Be Used to Control."
In that post, I addressed the fact that antipsychotics are often used to "calm" a person with Alzheimer's, and that studies show they don't work. They simply drug the people, without helping the root cause of their distress. People respond to kindness, and the attention of a human being who really wants to know what is upsetting them. The drugs can't accomplish the task that is needed. Human attention addresses that need.
Now, in "All types of antipsychotic drugs increase the risk of stroke," the British Medical Journal shows that exposure to antipsychotics increases the risk of stroke for people with dementia.
Hopefully, this will get some doctor's attention. These drugs were not designed for Alzheimer's patients, or different dementias, for that matter. They don't work for the patient's benefit, even if they work for the staff at a nursing home by restraining a person with Alzheimer's, which is illegal in many states (and should be in all).
Now, the British Medical Journal study shows us that antipsychotics can also put the person at risk for a stroke. This means, not only are the drugs bad for the patient psychologically, but that they endanger the patient's physical health. Will this be enough to stop their use as a restraint for people with Alzheimer's disease?
The study concludes with," We reaffirm that the risks associated with antipsychotic use in patients with dementia generally outweigh the potential benefits, and in this patient group, use of antipsychotic drugs should be avoided wherever possible."
Are there people with Alzheimer's disease that needed antipsychotic drugs before the Alzheimer's presented as a separate disease? Would this make a difference in a doctor's decision about whether to prescribe them or not? Maybe.
Each case is different. But the fact that antipsychotics have been over-prescribed as a calming measure for Alzheimer's patients has been widely reported. Add to that this new evidence that antipsychotics can increase the chance of a stroke in dementia patients, and most doctors will likely take a second look. Maybe there is another, better option to help people with Alzheimer's disease. Say, human touch, combined with patience and an attempt to understand the reason for the agitation? That would be a huge step forward.
Published On: September 04, 2008