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Are senior citizens being overmedicated?
June 3rd, 2011
09:42 AM ET

Are senior citizens being overmedicated?

Strong, antipsychotic drugs are being prescribed more often to senior citizens in U.S. nursing homes, setting off a debate about whether it's the right treatment for the elderly suffering from dementia.

Daniel Levinson, inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, believes this increase - detailed in a recent study by his office - is a cause for alarm.  "The report found that too often, elderly residents are prescribed antipsychotic drugs in ways that violate government standards for unnecessary drug use," he wrote in a commentary for CNN.com.

Psychiatrist Daniel Carlat disagrees, saying the study Levinson cites is a "blizzard of statistics" that doesn't tell the entire story.  "When these drugs are successful, they soothe the inner turmoil that makes life intolerable for these patients, improving their quality of life dramatically," Carlat wrote in his commentary for CNN.com.

The conflicting guidance is making it even more difficult for those trying to make sure their aging loved ones are getting the best care during the final years of their lives.  Laura Steckler, a Florida resident, recently sought treatment for her elderly mother after she suffered an episode of paranoia and hallucinations.  She tells CNN how she found herself in the middle of the debate over how much is too much medication for the elderly:   

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Filed under: Medications • Mental Health

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.