Antipsychotic Use Increases with Age

A new study from the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry looked at the patterns of antipsychotic drug use by age and gender and made some surprising findings. Among them:

  • The majority of antipsychotic drug prescriptions are for a non-FDA-approved use, regardless of the age of the patient;
  • Men are subject to more short-term antipsychotic use while women are subject to more long-term use [to us, this suggests antipsychotics are used for immediate sedation in men and longer-term behavioral control in women];
  • Antipsychotics are often, and in some cases usually, prescribed along with other classes of psychotropic drugs like anti-anxiety and mood-altering drugs.

Among the most important findings in the study were that use of antipsychotics generally increases by age so that a person in her 80’s is more than twice as likely as a younger adult to receive antipsychotics. More shockingly, “at all ages, a great majority [about 80%] of antipsychotic treated adults had no evidence of clinically diagnosed mental disorders or dementia in their claims record.” Notably, the study’s authors found no evidence that antipsychotic use decreased for older adults between 2006 and 2010 despite the addition of Black Box warning labels telling older users that antipsychotics significantly increase their risk of death.

Since the study’s database used statistics from 2006 – 2010, the effects of the many recent efforts to reduce inappropriate use of antipsychotics for older people are not included. Hopefully, those efforts have changed some of the troubling trends noted in this study.


About achicotel

Anthony Chicotel is a staff attorney for CANHR. His areas of expertise include the rights of long-term care residents, nursing home litigation, health care decision-making, and conservatorships.
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