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Haldol Side Effects and Minimal Benefits Make Drug Unsuitable for Treating Delirium: Study

According to the findings of recent systematic reviews, researchers indicate Haldol and other similar antipsychotics provide little-to-no benefit when used to treat or prevent delirium among adult patients, and may exposure individuals to unnecessary side effects.

In findings published this month in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers from  Johns Hopkins University conducted two separate reviews to evaluate the benefits and harms of patient’s diagnosed with delirium and treated with antipsychotics, specifically Haldol (haloperidol).

It is common for Haldol and other antipsychotic medications to be given to patients experiencing delirium, but the researchers indicate the drug does not offer any neurological benefits, and may be associated with higher risks of adverse cardiac events.

As part of the systematic review, researchers used data from a total of 30 randomized control trials, comparing Haldol and other second-generation antipsychotics to a placebo group being treated for delirium, and found there was no difference in sedation status, delirium duration, and hospital length of stay or mortality. Additionally, little to no evidence was found showing improvement on cognitive function, delirium severity, inappropriate continuation and sedation.

According to the findings, the only notable difference between patients prescribed Haldol and the placebo group were more frequent occurrences of harmful cardiac events, which is a known potential Haldol side effect.

Delirium is a condition causing individuals to become severely confused or unable to focus, often resulting in problems with thinking and memory. The condition is a common syndrome in hospitalized patients, with a prevalence of approximately 20% in general populations of inpatients and up to 80% in Intensive Care Units. Patients experiencing delirium often inadvertently put themselves in dangerous situations or can be prone to falling and hurting themselves.

The overuse of antipsychotics such as Haldol as a form of “chemical restraint” have been commonly used among the elderly or those with signs of dementia in hospitals and nursing homes. Although the drugs are prescribed in those cases to calm patients and make them more controllable, studies have shown that antipsychotics not only fail to provide those patients with benefits, but could increase their risk of death.

Haldol is a second-generation antipsychotic which decreases excitement in the brain and is used specifically to control motor and verbal actions in those with behavioral problems.

Previous studies have found antipsychotic drugs have some serious potential side effects, including reduced alertness, decreased blood pressure, increased risk of diabetes and heart disease, and even movement disorders that resemble those seen in Parkinson’s.

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