“Chemical Straitjackets”

Risk of Death

New York Times had an incredible investigative report that must be read. In 2005, the Food and Drug Administration required manufacturers to put a label on the drugs warning that they increased the risk of death for patients with dementia. Antipsychotic drugs are “chemical straitjackets”.

These dangerous medications kill residents with dementia, nearly doubling their chance of death from heart problems, infections, falls and other ailments. Nursing homes that maintain unsafe staffing levels use the sedatives so they don’t pay more staff to handle residents. Nursing homes are chronically understaffed and do not pay enough to retain employees.

In the early 2000s, studies found that antipsychotic drugs like Seroquel, Zyprexa and Abilify made older people drowsy and more likely to fall. The well-known risks are so high that nursing homes must report to the government the number of residents taking the dangerous drugs. However, the government doesn’t publicly disclose the data to consumers. The industry is able to hide the true dangers and true rate of antipsychotic drug use on vulnerable residents.


The Times report shows that when CMS began disclosing prescription data for antipsychotics and placed a black box warning in 2012, the number of residents with a schizophrenia diagnosis magically soared 70 percent.

“Today, one in nine residents has received a schizophrenia diagnosis. In the general population, the disorder, which has strong genetic roots, afflicts roughly one in 150 people. Schizophrenia, which often causes delusions, hallucinations and dampened emotions, is almost always diagnosed before the age of 40.”

Current data shows that at least 21 percent of nursing home residents — about 225,000 people — are on antipsychotics. Unacceptable. In the US, schizophrenia is prevalent in only 0.25% and 0.64% of the population.

Studies find that the worse a home’s staffing situation, the greater its use of dangerous antipsychotic drugs. These facilities need these “chemical straitjackets”. Facilities are using the powerful drugs to subdue patients and avoid having to hire extra staff. Unacceptable.