(NaturalNews) Antipsychotic drugs are significantly more dangerous than researchers had previously thought, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and published in the British Medical Journal.
Antipsychotic drugs come in two classes: an older variety known as "typical antipsychotics," and a newer variety ("atypical antipsychotics") that became popular in the 1990s. In 2002, researchers became aware that atypical antipsychotics significantly increased the risk of stroke among elderly dementia patients, but believed that the older drugs did not carry the same risk.
In the new study, however, researchers found that taking an antipsychotic drug of either class was associated with a 40 percent higher risk of stroke in patients that did not have any form of dementia. Among those with dementia, taking either variety of antipsychotic was correlated with a more than 200 percent increase in risk.
The study was based on the medical records of 6,700 elderly patients.
"This is another warning that all antipsychotics should be prescribed with great thought and care and be subject to rigorous follow-up," said Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the nonprofit organization Sane
Neal Hunt of the Alzheimer's Society said that the findings only make it more urgent that the drugs no longer be given to people with dementia.
"The over-prescription of antipsychotics is a serious breach of human rights," he said. "These drugs should only be a last resort.
Antipsychotic drugs are designed for the treatment of people with schizophrenia and severe depression, and are not licensed for use on dementia patients. Nevertheless, they are widely used in nursing homes as sedatives, particularly on patients who exhibit aggression. Many nursing homes have been accused of using the drugs merely to make life easier for their own staff, even at great risk to their patients' lives.