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Antipsychotics being used as 'chemical cosh' on dementia patients

Antipsychotic drugs intended to treat schizophrenia are reportedly being used to “chemically cosh” elderly dementia patients.

Sube Banerjee, professor of mental health and ageing at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, says dementia patients are kept on antipsychotic drugs for far too long.

His warning echoes long-standing research showing that such drugs can double the risk of death and triple the risk of stroke.

Says Professor Banerjee: “This is a major NHS issue. There are a lot of people treated with drugs that are potentially harmful.”

The drugs are prescribed to control symptoms such as aggression, agitation and hallucinations, but critics say they are often given to sedate people.

A Government review estimates that 180,000 people with dementia are thought to be on the medicines, with only around 36,000 getting any benefit. Overprescribing is linked to 1,800 deaths a year.

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