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A Breakdown of the Different Types of Antipsychotic Drugs: What You Should Know Before Taking Them

A recent article titled, “Comparative Safety of Antipsychotic Medications in Nursing Home Residents” was published by the Journal of American Geriatrics Society. As reported by the article, an entire third of nursing home patients are prescribed antipsychotics at some point during their residence. Because such a large population of nursing home patients take these drugs, it is important to understand the risks associated with antipsychotic medications. This study breaks down the two types of antipsychotics and compares the risks associated with using each one. Typical antipsychotics, also commonly known as conventional antipsychotics, were developed in the 1950s. A second generation of antipsychotic drugs was later developed, and today these medications are called atypical antipsychotics.

The study concluded that in general, the use of atypical antipsychotics is more dangerous, as it was more often associated with negative side effects. These included an increase in cardiac problems, infections, and hip fractures. However, an exception to this was found with cerebrovascular issues, in which case, atypical antipsychotics appeared to pose less of a risk. We hope that your loved one never finds the use of antipsychotic medications necessary, but if he or she does, it is important to understand risks and side effects, in order to do an educated cost-benefit analysis of taking such drugs.

The study also notes that the effectiveness of antipsychotics in Alzheimer’s patients is outweighed by the risks. Although symptoms for various cognitive diseases may appear to be similar, effective treatments for each one are often very different. Inaccurately diagnosing and treating a cognitive disease can be very dangerous, and even lead to death of a patient. Because there are so many fine details that must be understood and considered prior to beginning an antipsychotic drug regimen, it is important that the nursing home staff is trained and knowledgeable in such matters. As many nursing homes are, unfortunately, extremely understaffed, it is common to find nurses who are unable to properly and accurately diagnose and treat various medical problems. It is important that you are aware of this widespread problem, so that you and your loved one can hopefully avoid its many consequences.

One such consequence is the use of chemical restraints. Because the nurses in understaffed facilities are usually pressed for time, they will often automatically resort to the use of drugs, instead of first assessing the patient and considering other treatments that may be safer and more effective. This is especially important in dementia patients. In 2005, the FDA issued a warning of excess mortalities associated with antipsychotic use in adults with dementia. Since then, many studies have been conducted on the various uses of antipsychotics and their overall effect on quality of life in patients who suffer from dementia. The results have all suggested that behavioral therapies are the most effective treatment for dementia patients. In fact, the use of antipsychotics has actually been proven to worsen symptoms of dementia, such as agitation. It is important that you consider the many alternative methods that exist for treating dementia before resorting to the use of antipsychotic medications.

The study concludes by emphasizing the importance of monitoring a patient’s dosage of medications. Close and careful monitoring can prevent consequences of polypharmacy from occurring. The most efficient way to monitor drug use and antipsychotic treatments is to maintain organized and detailed medical records. Studies have actually proven that improper documentation of antipsychotic drug usage leads to a higher rate of death in skilled nursing facilities.

If your loved one resides in a nursing home in Covina, Burbank, or Glendale that is wrongly prescribing antipsychotic drugs, despite its many risks, contact us today to see how we can help attain his or her rights.