Non-Pharma Alternatives to Antipsychotics for Dementia

by Bruce Boyers

A recent report by the British Psychological Association (BPS) has presented non-pharmaceutical alternatives for the treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. The goal of the research is to reduce antipsychotic over-prescription to the elderly—a situation that has persisted despite mounting evidence that these drugs are extremely harmful to the patient.

The researchers wrote, “In practice, antipsychotic medication is often used as a first-line treatment for behavioral difficulties rather than as a secondary alternative, despite the evidence that antipsychotic drugs have a limited positive effect and can cause significant harm to people with dementia. Interventions offered should aim to lessen the distress and harm caused by these difficulties and increase the quality of life of those living with dementia and their care givers.”

Warnings from Many Sources

The harm caused to the elderly by antipsychotic medication has been well-documented from numerous sources. In just a few examples:

  • A 2015 study in JAMA Psychiatry revealed that elderly patients that had been prescribed antipsychotics had considerably high mortality rates than previously thought. Additionally, mortality was found to increase in direct ratio to increased dosage.
  • The FDA issued a warning that use of certain antipsychotics was especially dangerous for those with dementia, yet a research article published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that about 80 percent of prescriptions to people over 65 years of age were for these particular antipsychotics—despite the FDA’s warning.
  • Another recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that antipsychotic medications were linked to higher mortality rates among Alzheimer’s patients.

Humane, Non-Drug Approaches

The report from BPS goes to great lengths to recommend non-pharmaceutical approaches to both dementia and Alzheimer’s treatments. Researchers wrote, “In the future, greater care will need to be exercised in the prescribing of such medication outside of accepted guidelines, because their limited effectiveness and numerous side effects may lead families to question whether these drugs are being used in their relative’s ‘best interests’.”

Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights has been documenting the serious harm caused by psychiatric medications since 1969.

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