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Health Dangers Associated with Dementia’s Antipsychotic Drugs

— May 8, 2024

Antipsychotics used to treat dementia can lead to heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, and poor kidney function among other issues.

There are few conditions that are more difficult for a family to deal with than dementia. Given the impact that this disease has on their loved one, most people are desperate to find any kind of solution that can provide some relief and hold off the degenerative effects of the condition. Unfortunately, good news tends to be hard to find in the world of dementia, even among treatments that do offer some benefits like antipsychotic drugs.

Based on the results of a new study, it seems that even some drugs that have been known to potentially help those with dementia may have enough potential health dangers that people should think carefully before giving them to a patient or family member. This article will take a closer look at the situation and what it means for patients and their families.

The use of antipsychotic medications in the early stages of dementia treatment is quite common. Given that reality, it’s important to determine whether or not using those drugs is going to be a positive in the end for the patient, when all sides are considered. Sadly, according to this new study, it seems that the numerous health complications that are possible as a result of using the drugs might outweigh the positive impacts they can have.

Health Dangers Associated with Dementia's Antipsychotic Drugs
Photo by Kampus Production from Pexels

Some of the many potential problems that people with dementia might experience while using antipsychotic drugs include heart failure, heart attack, stroke, irregular heart rhythm, pneumonia, and more. Obviously, many of the conditions listed there are very serious and can be life-threatening. So, elevating the risk of those conditions is not something that should be taken lightly and the whole picture needs to be considered before a treatment plan is chosen.

One thing that does need to be kept in mind related to this study is the limitations on its reach and the need for more research. Specifically, the cause-and-effect relationships between the use of certain drugs and the result of a given health condition can be tenuous and aren’t always known. So, if an individual who is using antipsychotic medication to treat dementia winds up dealing with something like a heart attack, it can’t necessarily be proven that one thing led to another.

On the positive side for this study, it did draw from a significant bank of data. More than 170,000 individuals across England who had been diagnosed with dementia were used to gather this data, so it was a significant population that was used in the study.

The realities of dementia are difficult to watch, to say the least. Going through this experience can be the hardest time of an individual’s life, and the collective family may be strained to get through it successfully. While it’s understandable that people in this position might think that the use of antipsychotic drugs would be a good solution to hold off the decline of their loved one, the risks just might not be worth it. Everyone in this position should talk to their healthcare provider to make a sound decision about how to move forward.


Antipsychotic drugs to treat dementia linked to more health dangers than previously thought

Multiple adverse outcomes associated with antipsychotic use in people with dementia: population based matched cohort study

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