Lenora Cline, 88, has literally been confined to her bed in a nursing home in Whittier, California. Struggling with Alzheimer’s disease, Lenora needs constant attention and care, prompting the nursing home staff to put her on powerful antipsychotic medications without prior intimation. However, when Laurel Cline, who visits her twice a day, questioned the medical staff about the high frequency of the doses, they justified their decision by citing her mother’s “difficult behavior.” They even objected to Laurel’s request to discontinue antipsychotic medications and threatened to discharge her mother.
Though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that antipsychotic drugs can prove to be fatal, the nursing home staff refuse to adhere to FDA guidelines. Such an incident is common in the U.S. It happens to the elderly in most nursing homes across the country on a regular basis, a recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) suggests. According to the report, in an average week, nursing facilities in the U.S. administer antipsychotic drugs to over 179,000 people who do not have diagnoses for which the drugs are usually used. Overmedicating the elderly without their or family members’ consent has become the norm of the day, despite regulatory prohibitions on the misuse.
According to Hannah Flamm, New York University (NYU) School of Law Fellow at HRW, nursing home staff often sedate patients of dementia so that it becomes easy to manage them. Overworked staff attribute excessive doses of antipsychotic drugs to the disruptive behavior of their patients, which need to be curbed. Disciplining patients using antipsychotic medications as a “chemical restraint” is a violation of federal laws and amounts to inhuman treatment under international human rights law.
Federal regulations mandate nursing facilities to obtain the consent of the patient before administering any antipsychotic drug. The law even upholds the right of patients to refuse treatment. Sadly, most staff do not adhere to the regulations. The HRW has held the U.S. government accountable for failing to enforce the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. According to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), between 2014 and 2017, federal authorities issued nearly 7,039 citations to nursing homes for violating the guidelines for antipsychotic drugs. However, so far these citations have remained ineffective and haven’t translated into penalties.
In a rebuttal to the current study, the American Health Care Association (AHCA), representing most nursing homes in the country, said that the latest HRW report had overlooked the efforts taken since 2012 to prevent the problem from snowballing into something bigger. On the contrary, this new study insists on government bodies to reinforce procedures to obtain informed consent and ensure minimum staffing levels, which the nursing home industry has always ignored.
Overcoming addiction to depressants
Depressant drugs like Seroquel, Zyprexa and Haldol are known as antipsychotics as they are believed to subside the symptoms of a mental illness. But research suggests that most patients, who have been victims of overmedication of such drugs, experience cognitive impairment, constant sedation, irritation and difficulties in communication and concentration. Some of them have even reported experiencing addiction after long-term administration of powerful depressants.
Popularly known as “downers,” depressants act on the neurotransmitters in the brain to suppress the central nervous system (CNS). Though they produce a calming effect in mental health patients or those battling sleep disorders, their addictive nature can get users hooked on them. Along with depressants, opioids and stimulants form the most widely abused prescription drugs nationwide. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), an estimated 48 million people abuse prescription drugs, representing around 20 percent of the American population.
Non-medical use of depressants or any other prescription medication can result in addiction. Overdosing on depressants can cause disorientation, drug-induced delirium, lowered blood pressure and cognitive disabilities, including attention deficit, in elderly users. If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction to depressants or any other prescription sedatives, contact Sovereign Health of San Clemente. Specialists at our world-class depressant addiction treatment centers in California are trained to identify the underlying causes to treat a person holistically. They prescribe customized treatments for depressant addiction as well as group psychotherapy based on the patient’s requirements. You may call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our representatives for your queries.