The British Journal of Psychiatry
Unnecessary Use of Tranquillizers in Elderly Patients


Fifty female patients, aged from 62 to 89, and having chlorpromazine medication for various forms of dementia were included in this double-blind trial. Placebo was substituted for chlorpromazine for a period of three weeks, which differed for the various wards. The last week of chlorpromazine therapy was compared with the third week of placebo administration. The scale measuring agitation, over-activity, resistiveness and noisiness revealed significant (P< 0.01) but slight deterioration as assessed by change in mean score, as did the scale for incontinence of urine and faeces (P<0.001). Measures of insomnia and idleness did not change significantly. Ward sisters were unable to say whether chlorpromazine or placebo was being administered.

Our trial suggests that about 80 per cent. of elderly demented patients are receiving tranquillizers unnecessarily.

This study in no way evaluates the use of tranquillizers prescribed for short periods to meet specific crises in elderly demented patients.