If you have a family member suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, you know it’s not just a memory disorder. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) causes major behavior and mood disturbances.

According to doctors, less than 10 percent of Alzheimer’s patients remained free from symptoms of “psychopathology” during the course of their disease. In other words, agitation, aggression, depression, anxiety, paranoid delusions, and insomnia are very much the norm for AD patients.

As a result, today’s Alzheimer’s patient is all too often prescribed some type of antipsychotic drug to control their behavior. Thioridazine, chlorpromazine, haloperidol, trifluoperazine, or risperidone all belong to this class of drugs.

Limited options for Alzheimer’s patients

A new study to be published in Lancet Neurology, the respected British medical journal, confirms what one might guess about AD patients prescribed antipsychotics: the drugs shorten their lives.

In fact, a patient taking an antipsychotic drug only has a 46 percent survival rate at 24 months (as compared to 71 percent for a patient taking a placebo). Moreover, only 30 percent of AD patients were alive at 36 months after having begun treatment with antipsychotics (as opposed to 59 percent taking a placebo).

Bottom line here: if you’ve got a loved one with AD, think long and hard about using an antipsychotic drug to control their behavior. If you’ve run out of options, authors of the study suggest using the drugs for a limited time (3 months or less) to see if behavior improves.