Dementia: Anti-psychotics increase the risk of head injuries

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Antipsychotics are not only administered to schizophrenia patients, but also to people with dementia. In doing so, they involve some dangers. Not only do they increase the risk of falling, but also head injuries, according to a study.

It was already known that antipsychotics can lead to extremely low blood pressure at the start of treatment and thus increase the risk of falls. A team led by researcher Vesa Tapiainen from the University of Eastern Finland has now investigated the extent to which head injuries are associated with this.

Study with a good 43,000 subjects

To this end, 21,795 Finns who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s between 2005 and 2011 were regularly given antipsychotic medication. A further 21,795 patients took no such drugs as a control group.

Risk of head injuries increased by 29 percent

In the group with medication, the researchers found a 29 percent higher risk of head injuries, as reported by the “Pharmaceutical Newspaper”.

Medicines pose different levels of danger

In addition, a 22 percent higher risk of traumatic brain injuries was attributed to the use of the funds. Patients who took quetiapine had a 60 percent higher risk of traumatic brain injury than risperidone users.

Researcher warns against use in Alzheimer’s patients

Tapiainen concludes that the increased risk of antipsychotics in Alzheimer’s patients should be avoided as far as possible. Her findings were published in the journal “Journal of the American Geriatrics Society”.

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Other side effects

Falls and head injuries are far from the only dangers of taking antipsychotics, according to another study published in the journal.

Increased risk of heart attacks

An international team led by internist Matthew Basciotta investigated to what extent the medication favored heart attacks in older patients. Doctors also warn against the generous use of antipsychotics.

Especially so-called typical antipsychotic drugs of the first generation, which were developed in the 1950s, significantly increased the risk of cardiac or pulmonary arrest. With second-generation drugs (“atypical” antipsychotics), an increased risk was found in people aged 65 years and over.

Increased risk of pneumonia

The researchers refer to previous studies that atypical antipsychotics increase the risk of falls, pneumonia, and death. In addition, another study indicated that both types of antipsychotics increased the risk of fatal heart attacks.

Antipsychotics are also prescribed without a psychiatric reason

Despite these risks, atypical antipsychotics are often prescribed to people in hospital. A survey of patients at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston found that nine percent of all adults admitted to hospital for non-psychiatric reasons were given antipsychotics.

No effect on delirium

A recent study had also shown that the use of antipsychotics to prevent or treat delirium neither reduced the risk of death, nor reduced the severity of delirium or shortened its duration.

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