A recent review of nursing home data reveals that despite initiatives to reduce their use, the number of nursing home residents on antipsychotic drugs remains high in 2018. The Long-Term Care Community Coalition found that 20% of residents are taking an antipsychotic medication, even though the conditions the drugs are intended to treat are present in only 2% of these residents.
A Decades Old Argument
Antipsychotic drugs are sometimes given to patients off-label to calm behaviors associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. These medications make patients easier to handle, and have been known to be used without the patient’s physician or family’s knowledge or consent, a dangerous tactic given that off-label use of these drugs have been known to cause sudden death. This practice, officially known as chemical restraint, is not new. Since at least the mid-80s, consumer interest groups have pushed to curtail the use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing home residents with dementia.