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12 September 2011

Two out of three individuals suffering from dementia who are prescribed anti-psychotic drugs should be offered alternative treatments first, according to a motion debated at the Trades Union Congress.

More than 180,000 people a year with dementia are prescribed anti-psychotics and it is estimated that inappropriate use causes 1800 premature deaths, according to the motion proposed by the Society of Radiographers.

“In too many cases, these drugs are prescribed before non-drug interventions have been attempted, often as a way to deal with difficult and challenging behaviour,” said Sandie Mathers, a member of the Society's Council.

“They should be the treatment of last resort, after non-drug methods have been tried and failed.”

The SoR argues that drugs should be only used under careful supervision for limited periods.

“Sufferers, carers and healthcare professionals need to be provided with information and advice on the appropriate use of anti-psychotic drugs,” Mrs Mathers said.

There are a range of anti-psychotics available on prescription and some have been withdrawn over the years because of the severe side-effects that they caused. Some of the options currently available are blamed for shakiness, abnormal and jerky movements, muscle spasms, and low blood pressure, leading to falls.

Anti-psychotic drugs, also known as neuroleptics or powerful tranquillisers, are prescribed to treat a variety of behaviour problems in dementia, including restlessness, irritability and aggression, emotional instability and loss of inhibitions.

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