Powerful drugs that have been used for decades to treat delirium are ineffective for that purpose, according to a study published online Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Antipsychotic medications, such as haloperidol (brand name, Haldol), are widely used in intensive care units, emergency rooms, hospital wards and nursing homes, according to NPR.
"In some surveys up to 70 percent of patients [in the ICU] get these antipsychotics," says Dr. E. Wesley "Wes" Ely, an intensive care specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. They're prescribed by "very good doctors at extremely good medical centers," he says. "Millions of people worldwide are getting these drugs to treat their delirium."
Patients with delirium are often confused and incoherent and sometimes can suffer hallucinations. This condition can lead to long-term cognitive problems, including a form of dementia.