Antipsychotic drugs are extremely potent medications designed to treat the most severe of mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or psychosis. They are NOT intended to treat dementia. Yet, nursing facilities may use antipsychotic medication to control the behavior of residents– a chemical restraint as a substitute for needed care.
The problem is aggravated because antipsychotic medications have dangerous side effects. In fact, the FDA has issued its most dire warning – the Black Box Warning – stating antipsychotic drugs given to elders with dementia causes heart attacks, strokes and death.
An additional component of this problematic issue is Informed Consent. Informed Consent requires physicians and care facilities to not only fully inform the patient or patient’s representative of all side effects, dangers, and alternatives of treatment but to also obtain permission/consent from the patient or representative prior to administering any medical treatment potentially hazardous to a patient’s health. Failure to obtain consent before administering treatment is against the law.
Federal guidelines state antipsychotic drugs should NOT be used if the ONLY symptoms are:
Wandering, unsociability, poor self-care, indifference to surroundings, restlessness, impaired memory, nervousness, mild anxiety, uncooperativeness, and insomnia. Measured by these standards, much antipsychotic and antianxiety drugs used by nursing homes to treat residents with dementia are both unnecessary and a form of chemical restraint.
Some of the most common signs of overmedication include:
- Erratic or unexplained change in personality and behavior
- Sudden reclusive actions (even toward family members)
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Medical complications or other unusual physical symptoms
- Loved one appearing easily confused
The most commonly used antipsychotic drugs are Risperdal, Seroquel, Zyprexa, and Haldol. Please see the back of this page for a complete list of antipsychotic medication.
- Haldol (haloperidol)
- Risperdal (risperidone)
- Seroquel (quetiapine)
- Zyprexa (olanzapine)
- Compazine (prochlorperazine)
- Loxitane (loxapine)
- Mellaril (thioridazine)
- Moban (molindone)
- Navane (thiothixene)
- Orap (pimozide)
- Prolixin (fluphenazine)
- Stelazine (trifluoperazine)
- Thorazine (chlorpromazine)
- Trilafon (perphenazine)
- Abilify (aripiprazole)
- Clozaril (clozapine)
- FazaClo (clozapine)
- Geodon (ziprasidone)
- Invega (paliperidone)
- Symbyax (olanzapine and fluoxetine)
Antipsychotic medication is only one of four classes of psychoactive drugs, albeit the most dangerous in cases of dementia. The other three classes of psychoactive drugs containing serious side effects and commonly used by care facilities include:
- Anti-anxiety drugs such as Ativan and Valium;
- Anti-depressants such as Prozac and Zoloft; and
- Sedative/hypnotics such as Halcion and Restoril.
This information is in part a summary of the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform information webpage on Toxic Medicine. For complete text see http://www.canhr.org/stop-drugging/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Toxic_Medicine.pdf