First Time User? Sign Up Now
First Time User? Enroll now.
Home > Health Library > Dementia: Medicines to Treat Behavior Changes
The decision to try medicine to treat behavior problems in Alzheimer's disease is different for each person. The decision weighs the risks and benefits of these medicines. Your doctor can help you decide. Medicines for behavior problems linked to dementia do not work very well for most people and may have serious risks.
Medicines can be used to treat behavior problems caused by Alzheimer's disease and other diseases that cause dementia. They should be used only after other nondrug approaches have failed to improve a person's symptoms. Medicine may be needed when the person is in danger of harming himself or herself or others or when the caregiver is unable to deal with the situation using other means.
Antipsychotic medicines may help relieve more severe agitation or psychosis (disordered thought processes).
Examples of medicines sometimes used to treat hallucinations, paranoia, and severe agitation in people who have dementia include aripiprazole, haloperidol, and risperidone.
FDA advisory. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory stating that people with dementia who use antipsychotics may die sooner than those who don't use these drugs.
Antianxiety medicines, including minor tranquilizers, relieve anxiety and mild agitation and may help calm the person. But they can cause drowsiness if the dose is too high. When minor tranquilizers are needed, short-term or occasional use often is better than continuous use.
Lorazepam and oxazepam are minor tranquilizers sometimes used to treat the symptoms of dementia. Another antianxiety medicine called buspirone also can be tried.
Anticonvulsant medicine, such as valproic acid, may be used to control agitation, violent behavior, and mood swings caused by dementia. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved this medicine for this specific problem.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning on anticonvulsants and the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts. The FDA does not recommend that people stop using these medicines. Instead, people who take anticonvulsant medicine should be watched closely for warning signs of suicide. People who take anticonvulsant medicine and who are worried about this side effect should talk to a doctor.
Other medicines that may be used to treat agitation include antidepressants. Trazodone and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as citalopram, fluoxetine, and sertraline are examples. But research on the effectiveness of these medicines in Alzheimer's disease and other dementias is limited.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide.
See Drug Reference for more information about all of these medicines. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
Current as ofSeptember 11, 2018
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineMyron F. Weiner, MD - Geriatric Psychiatry
Current as of:
September 11, 2018
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Myron F. Weiner, MD - Geriatric Psychiatry
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2018 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
1500 Sunday Drive
Raleigh, NC 27607
34 Healthpark Way
Suite 100 C
Clayton, NC 27520
781 Avent Ferry Road
REX Healthcare of Holly Springs, Suite 204
Holly Springs, NC 27540
4207 Lake Boone Trail
Rexwoods II, Suite 220
Raleigh, NC 27607
1505 SW Cary Parkway
REX Healthcare of Cary, Suite 210
Cary, NC 27511
UNC REX Healthcare 4420 Lake Boone Trail Raleigh, NC 27607, USA 919-784-3100
Chosen for Excellence
Co-Worker & Physician Login
Rex Connects Blog
Copyright 2019 UNC Health Care. All rights reserved.