New Study Finds Rampant Use of Psychotropic Drugs in Assisted Living

A study released earlier this year found alarming rates of psychotropic drug use in assisted living facilities, for residents with and without dementia.  Thirty-seven percent of the studied assisted living residents were drugged with antipsychotics, 40% with anti-anxiety drugs, and 56% with anti-depressants.  The rates of antipsychotic and anti-anxiety drug use are significantly higher than those found in nursing homes, which have historically been so high they have inspired a five-year national reduction campaign.  No such campaign has focused on assisted living, despite the drugging epidemic suggested by the study’s data.  The study demonstrates assisted living facilities are quite facile with drugging residents to sedate and subdue them, despite FDA warnings not to.

The study had many other interesting elements including:
  •  antipsychotic drugs were used more often in facilities with “memory care” units than in those without.  The study’s authors found this surprising, given that memory care staff members should be “better trained and more effective in managing the behavioral manifestations of dementia non-pharmacologically compared with staff working outside such units.”  Apparently, that is not the case.
  • the antipsychotic prescription rates for nurse practitioners and physician assistants were significantly higher than those for physicians.
  • seventy-six percent of the assisted living residents were diagnosed with dementia, a much higher rate than had been previously reported.
Overall, the study suggests the national campaign to reduce antipsychotic use in nursing homes has not had any impact in assisted living and policy responses to this major, yet underreported, overdrugging crisis are overdue.
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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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