In 1997 I worked part-time for a nursing home. This facility had an open-door policy and had a reputation in the state for being able to accommodate even the most difficult and unmanageable clients.
Some of this reputation was attributable to their generous administration of major tranquilizers, but in addition there was a high level of acceptance and compassion among the staff, and there is no doubt in my mind that this was a major factor in their success.
On one of my visits there I was asked to see a new admission, whom I shall call Brian. The reason for the referral was that the staff were having difficulty getting him to eat, and he was losing weight. I visited Brian for the next few weeks, but he was largely unresponsive to my approaches. His speech was minimal, and when he did say anything, it was: “leave me alone;” “get out of my room;” “I don’t care,” etc..
I noticed from the record that he was receiving a major tranquilizer, and I asked the nurse manager why. He replied that he didn’t know, but that Brian had been taking this when he had been transferred in from another facility, and that the admitting physician had just continued at the same dosage. Attempts to learn the reason from the earlier facility were unsuccessful.
I suggested to the treatment team that the major tranquilizer be discontinued, and that Brian be closely monitored for signs of aggression or unmanageability. The next week I returned and found to my surprise that there had been no problems and that Brian was going to the dining room every meal time and was eating well.
I visited him in his room, and he seemed pleased at the opportunity to talk. He had been a ham radio operator in the 30’s, and he was able to talk about these matters. He had also worked small cargo vessels along the Maine coast and could recount features of the harbors, coastline, etc.. He talked fluently and knowledgeably on a wide range of subjects. He began interacting with other residents and in general was doing very well.
I left this job about a year later, but a year after that I was in the area and stopped in to say hello to my former clients. Brian recognized me immediately and addressed me by my name!
The point of the story is that major tranquilizers are a kind of chemical straightjacket, and there are far too many people in nursing homes who are being restrained in this manner.
The pharma-psychiatric faction like to call these drugs anti-psychotics, implying that they somehow target psychotic behavior and make crazy people sane. In fact, the earlier name – major tranquilizers – is more accurate. They suppress crazy behavior for the simple reason that they suppress all behavior.
What brought this to mind is a recent blog post by Christopher Lane: Antipsychotic Medication, Seniors and Children. Christopher laments the widespread use of these dangerous products. Three quotes:
“Only 5 one-year-olds were prescribed the drugs the following year, the paper reports. Similarly, “only” 107 three-year-olds, 268 four-year-olds, and 437 five-year-olds on Medicaid in Florida were given the powerful antipsychotics in 2008.”
“… in 2009, BBC News reports, a study commissioned by the UK Department of Health found that 180,000 people with dementia had been prescribed antipsychotic medication in the UK and that “the drugs [had] resulted in 1,800 additional deaths.”
“… atypical antipsychotics were associated with a 60-70% increased risk of death compared with placebo in randomized controlled trials among older patients with dementia…”
Psychiatry is drug-pushing, and it is expanding its reach to the younger and older extremes of the population.