By Anthony Chicotel, CANHR Staff Attorney
Americans who decry the misuse of psychotropic drugs in long-term care facilities should be encouraged by the strides being made in England to promote non-pharmacological alternatives for “treating” dementia. The British Medical Journal recently released a research study demonstrating that behavioral disturbances associated with dementia can be better treated with pain relief medications than with psychotropic drugs. Regular administration of simple analgesics was found to reduce agitation in patients with moderate to severe dementia “comparing well” to the currently best available drug therapy. The study’s authors found that assessing and treating pain is an integral part of effective dementia treatment. The author’s findings are consistent with CANHR’s recommendation that pain be carefully assessed and ruled out as a cause of perceived disruptive behaviors for people with dementia, before psychotropic drugs are considered.