COVID-19: Vaccine | Testing | Self-assessment | Patient & Visitor Safety | Visitor Policy
Emergency Room Wait Times
Home > Living Well > 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 of:
June 16, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineMyron F. Weiner MD - Psychiatry, Neurology
Current as of: June 16, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Myron F. Weiner MD - Psychiatry, Neurology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website, and its associated websites, is provided as a benefit to the local community, and the Internet community in general; it does not constitute medical advice. We try to provide quality information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this website and its associated sites. As medical advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each patient and healthcare is constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of a competent physician. Furthermore, in providing this service, Adventist HealthCare does not condone or support all of the content covered in this site. As an Adventist health care organization, Adventist HealthCare acts in accordance with the ethical and religious directives for Adventist health care services.
Find an Adventist HealthCare affiliated doctor by calling our FREE physician referral service at 800-642-0101 or by searching our online physician directory.
Set Your Location
Setting your location helps us to show you nearby providers and locations based on your healthcare needs.