According to a leading group of psychiatrists, anti-psychotic medications should not be the first treatments prescribed when dealing with dementia in an elderly person, behavior problems in a child, nor insomnia in an adult.
The American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) new list of questionable uses of anti-psychotic medications is part of a broader campaign to educate patients and doctors about unneeded and possibly harmful medical treatments and tests. The campaign, Choosing Wisely, includes over 50 medical groups that have created a list of common practices that, in their opinion, should be questioned.
The latest list focuses on the potential misuse of antipsychotic medications. New medications referred to as “atypical anti-psychotics” have been used more aggressively in everything from unruly nursing home residents to ADHD children.
Doctors who overprescribe the medications are “doing what they think might help” without trying safer or more effective alternatives, says Joel Yager, a professor at University of Colorado-Boulder.
The group of professionals cautions providers against using the medications without full evaluations and ongoing monitoring. Additionally, providers should practice caution when using the drugs in combinations of two or more without first trying a number of singular medications.
According to the campaign, it is also questionable to use these drugs as routine or first-choice treatments for:
- The behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. This is a common practice in nursing homes; however, side effects can include confusion, sedation and hastened death.
- Children and teens with any condition other than a psychotic disorder. Use in children has risen rapidly, especially among poor and minority children, despite research linking the medications to weight gain, cardiovascular changes and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Adult insomnia. There’s inadequate evidence they work for the sleeping problem, the psychiatric group says.