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Researchers at Baycrest, center focused on aging, recently announced the results of a head-to-head comparison of an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) with one of the more commonly prescribed second generation antipsychotics used in the treatment of older, non-depressed dementia patients.

The results were surprising. They found evidence that an antidepressant (citalopram) may perform as well as frequently prescribed antipsychotic (risperidone) for the alleviation of severe agitation and psychotic symptoms of dementia. Researchers also found that the antidepressant was associated with “significantly lower” adverse side effects than the commonly-prescribed antipsychotic.

The double-blind randomized control trial consisted of 103 patients who were hospitalized with psychiatric disturbances related to dementia.

The findings are exciting because they raise the possibility of a new direction in drug treatment for psychotic disorders related to dementia in the elderly. The concern is that antipsychotics continue to be the first-line of treatment despite growing evidence of serious side effects–including death. The researchers caution that additional studies need to be done to replicate their findings.

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