Canada’s widely used antipsychotic drugs in long-term care homes is quality-of-care issues: study

Antipsychotic drugs. Representational image by Myriam Zille on Unsplash

Toronto/CMEDIA: An increased use of antipsychotic drugs use in long-term care homes across Canada is a potential area of concern for quality of care researchers reportedly said in a new study.

The prescription of antipsychotic drugs’ use reduces or relieve symptoms of psychosis, including delusions and hallucinations, according to the Canadian Association of Mental Health (CAMH).

The study examined data of yearly Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) reports to assess how COVID-19 impacted resident admission and discharge rates, resident health attributes, treatments, and quality of care was published in Health Services Insights.

The report data was collected from more than 500,000 residents across Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia — home to facilities with the highest number of COVID-19 cases early on in the pandemic — two years pre-pandemic and in the first year of COVID-19.

The researchers found an approximately 10 percent increase — greatest in Alberta, and the lowest in Ontario — in risk compared with the pre-pandemic period, according to John Hirdes, professor at the School of Public Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo.

There was a hike in antipsychotic drug usage in Alberta from 18.4 percent in 2019-2020 to 20 percent in 2020-2021, and in Ontario, from 20.4 per cent in 2019-2020 to 22.3 per cent in 2020-2021.

The researchers of the study did not observe a significant increase in behavioral symptoms of psychosis that would lead patients to require antipsychotic drugs, this increase, Hirdes, in a press release may expose a potential area of concern for quality of care.

“(This) raises the question of whether these medications were used pre-emptively in anticipation of challenges during outbreaks and staffing shortages,” said Hirdes, in a press release.

According to CAMH, antipsychotic medications have unpleasant side effects, including dizziness, weight gain, and diabetes, most of which will go away after stopping drug use but a risk for a long term condition called tardive dyskinesia, which causes people to make involuntary movements cannot be ruled out.

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