For years, medical experts have warned of the medical concerns associated with opioids, including depression, weakened immune system, and digestive issues. Now, however, new research shows that they could be particularly dangerous for dementia patients.

The Dangers of Painkillers for Dementia Patients

According to research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, opioid-based painkillers can triple the side effects of dementia. Individuals taking the drugs experienced more pronounced personality changes, significant increases in confusion and sedation, and lower activity levels throughout the day.

In another study, researchers focused exclusively on known as “Z drugs,” which are currently given to hundreds of thousands of patients with dementia to promote sleep. Drugs under this category included zolpidem, zopiclone, and zaleplon. Findings revealed that patients on these drugs faced an increased risk of bone fracture, which contributes to an increased risk of death in people with dementia.

A Widespread Problem

Alzheimer’s, which is the most common form of dementia, currently affects an estimated 5.7 million Americans. Roughly half of the people living in care homes and suffering from this or another form of dementia experience pain to some degree, which can result from unrelated medical conditions such as arthritis. Unfortunately, as dementia patients face compounding communication challenges, treating their pain can become more difficult.

The study has prompted experts to explore other, non-pharmaceutical means of treating pain and sleep disorders in dementia patients. Alzheimer’s research group leaders believe that the solution lies in finding nondrug interventions to help manage pain and promote quality of life while minimizing serious side effects like those revealed by the study findings. Regenerative therapy may be an option to consider for those battling Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

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