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Major Tranquilizer Treatments for Alzheimer's

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Updated: April 17, 2006

Effective tranquilizer use in dementia

Providing effective treatment plans to manage some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease can have a dramatic effect on quality of life. Tranquilizers can be an valuable aid if used therapeutically and monitored closely.

Use of Major and Minor Tranquilizers and Alzheimer's disease
There are two main groups of tranquilizers, major and minor. Either group can be used for the treatment and management of symptoms that interfere with normalfunctioning. Tranquilizers work well when people experience different mood states that result from disease or emotional/psychiatric disturbance. Minor tranquilizers are used, in general, to treat less severe forms of anxiety and agitation. The major tranquilizing medications can be used for symptoms such as severe agitation and anxiety, violence, hostility, psychotic delusions, uncooperativeness, hostile or suspicious paranoid behavior and/or hallucinations.It is the major tranquilizers that are most frequently prescribed for dementia.

Aims of Tranquilizers use in Alzheimer's disease

  • To reduce or relieve symptoms

  • To tranquilize but not impair conciousness

  • To help an individual think more clearly

  • To improve a person quality of life

  • To improve sleep
  • Major Tranquilizers used in Alzheimer's disease
    Major tranquilizers are powerful drugs. As well as having a tranquilizing effect this group of drugs can also have an antipsychotic or normalizing effect on behavior.

    Side Effects of Major Tranquilizers
    There are a number of side effects, some severe and potentially permanent. Anyone taking major tranquilizers requires monitoring by a health care professional and responsible caregiver to avoid side effects. These side effects include;

  • drowsiness,

  • sensitivity to light

  • decreased sweating

  • dry mouth

  • difficulty passing urine

  • constipation

  • decreased sexual ability
  • Serious side effects of major tranqilizers
    These serious side effects can include:

  • shakiness

  • musculer spasms in the neck and back
  • blurred vision

  • fast heart beat

  • hypotension (low blood pressure)

  • shuffling gait

  • decreased or slowed movements

  • drooling, mask-like face.

  • Some of this latter group of side effects can indicate that the person is suffering from what are termed extrapyramidal side effects or reactions. Very like Parkinsons disease, these side effects can appear anywhere between a day or week, up to two months after commencement of treatment with major tranquilizers.

    Tardive dyskinesia a serious side effect of major tranquilizer use
    People taking major tranquilizers for a long period of time risk something termed tardive dyskinesia. This severe form of extrapyramidal side effect may be irreversable. Signs and symptoms include writhing movements, problems in walking, talking, eating or breathing.

    Examples of Major Tranquilizers[Antipsychotic or Neuroleptics]
    Haloperidol, Thioridazine, Chlorpromazine, Thiothixene, Trifluoperazine, Loxipine Succinate. A new group of antipsychotic medication that can be included under the major tranquilizer group of drugs are the atypical antipsychotics such as Olanzapine, Risperidone, Quetiapine. These atypical antipsychotics promote themselves as medications that produce fewer side effects.

    Medication as Chemical Restraint
    Remember tranquilizers, except in extraordinary or emergency circumstances, should never be used as a chemical restraint. Challenging behaviors or problem behaviors exibited by someone with Alzheimer's often require the help of experts in that field. The use of medications are just one way of improving the life of someone with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. Seeking outside help from healthcare practitioners such as doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health nurses, etc, can provide you with support, give you an independent assessment and evaluation and more effective treatments. A thoughtful treatment plan that incorporates activities, medication,and behavioral treatments will be the most effective. The treatment plans need to be carefully monitored and respond to the needs of each individual and his or her family.

    Article updated 01/15/2006

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