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Paracetamol could reduce agitation in dementia patients


Simple painkillers such as paracetamol could be used to treat agitation in dementia patients instead of antipsychotic drugs, according to study findings published online in the BMJ.

Researchers from King’s College, London, and Norway studied 352 nursing home residents with moderate to severe dementia.

Painkillers were issued to half during every meal, while the other half continued receiving their usual treatments, including antipsychotics.

After eight weeks, agitation symptoms among the painkiller group were on average 17% less than those in the usual care group.


Readers' comments (6)

  • what is the relationship between taken painkiller and agitation symptoms?

    Does & which type of painkiller used almost?

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  • AICU Nurse | 24-Jul-2011 2:30 pm

    no wonder the confusion. I have pasted the conclusions of the study below from the link above which states that paracetamol is used in pain control to reduce agitation.There was no mention of this above. It leads one to believe that the paracetamol can reduce agitation in dementia!

    It does not say who wrote the above report but it an extremely misleading, lazy and shoddy piece of journalism!

    "BMJ 2011; 343:d4065 doi: 10.1136/bmj.d4065 (Published 17 July 2011)
    Cite this as: BMJ 2011; 343:d4065
    • Research
    Efficacy of treating pain to reduce behavioural disturbances in residents of nursing homes with dementia: cluster randomised clinical trial
    1. Bettina S Husebo, postdoctoral fellow1,
    2. Clive Ballard, professor2,
    3. Reidun Sandvik, registered nurse1,
    4. Odd Bjarte Nilsen, statistician3,
    5. Dag Aarsland, professor4
    +Author Affiliations
    1. 1Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care, University of Bergen, 5020 Bergen, Norway
    2. 2Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases, Wolfson Wing and Hodgkin Building, Guy’s Campus, Kings College, London SE1 1UL, UK
    3. 3Department of Psychiatry, Stavanger University Hospital, 4011 Stavanger, Norway
    4. 4Karolinska Institute, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institute-Alzheimer Disease Research Center, Novum, Stockholm, Stavanger University Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, Stavanger, Norway, and University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
    1. Correspondence to: C Ballard
    • Accepted 14 May 2011

    Conclusion A systematic approach to the management of pain significantly reduced agitation in residents of nursing homes with moderate to severe dementia. Effective management of pain can play an important part in the treatment of agitation and could reduce the number of unnecessary prescriptions for psychotropic drugs in this population."

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  • If the paracetamol was used INSTEAD of the antipsychotics, might one draw the conclusion that the antipsychotic drugs were causing the agitation/confusion rather than the paracetamol treating the confusion/agitation?

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  • link to full pdf of the article:, a slightly quicker route

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  • Come on NT, I commented on the original piece to similar effect.

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  • michael stone

    I think I heard this story on R4 a week or 2 ago.

    Unless I got it wrong, the point was that being in pain makes people 'grumpy and snappy' (have you ever had bad tooth-ache ? - even hayfever does nothing for my own mood, after about 3 days of the symptoms), some dementia patients might be in pain but unable to explain that, so they are sometimes behaving 'psychotically' because they are in pain. Giving painkillers, if they were doing that, removes the pain and improves the behaviour.

    What struck me, was that this had not been considered by medics before the study ! With hindsight, it seems obvious !

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