Tranquilizers: Personal and social consequences

Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 3:49 pm

The personal cost of dependence on prescription sedative-hypnotics is high. Aside from the short- or long-term health effects, physical or psychological dependence may lead to family discord, job loss, birth defects in infants born to addicted mothers, and even criminal behavior and incarceration in individuals who purchase these drugs illicitly.
Although not often considered, the social cost of prescribing neuroleptics to some groups of people may be enormous. Recent research suggests that an older person living in a nursing home receives four times as many prescription drugs as an older person in their own home. Thus, some healthcare professionals are concerned that the neuroleptics are often overprescribed in the elderly — especially those living in nursing homes and long-term treatment facilities. Critics argue that these medications are often routinely used to suppress emotions and render elderly patients passive and docile, thus easing the workload of caregivers, rather than alleviating the symptoms of dementia.
Some maintain that rather than treating a disease or condition, neuroleptics often create another disease. Although these drugs eliminate or reduce the intensity of psychotic experiences such as delusions and hallucinations, the adverse side effects that may actually worsen the symptoms of dementia.
Dealing with the “problem” behavior of children with autism or ADHD by prescribing neuroleptics, according to some, has much in common with the treatment of the elderly. Although stimulants like methylphenidate (Ritalin) have been reportedly prescribed to large numbers of children and received much media attention, other psychotropic (mind-altering) drugs, such as the neuroleptics, are also prescribed. However, there has been virtually no testing of these drugs conducted on children, and the long-term effects are unknown.

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