Strength in Numbers dedicated to my late mother Kay

Anti-psychotic drugs given for wrong illnesses: Half of prescriptions are for conditions that are not mental illnesses

More than half of prescriptions for anti-psychotic drugs in Britain are for conditions other than serious mental illnesses, say researchers. And the elderly are twice as likely to be prescribed the drugs as people in their 40s, even though they are linked to a higher risk of premature death in older people. The drugs, often dubbed the ‘chemical cosh’ because they are wrongly used to sedate dementia patients, are licensed for serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  But a study of GPs’ prescriptions between 2007 and 2011, using an electronic database of anonymous patient records, found that less than half were prescribed the drugs for these conditions. Often they were handed out for anxiety, sleep problems and personality disorders, as well as dementia, even though doctors have been told to prescribe them only as a last resort.  This ‘off label’ or unlicensed prescribing resulted in older people with conditions such as dementia and anxiety getting them, says the study published online by the journal BMJ Open.

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