Antipsychotic drugs wreck the brain

"He was fine until he got to the nursing home."

How many times have you heard something like that? Maybe you even know someone who fits the description -- a mostly healthy senior who suffers from an injury or illness that requires a little extra care, possibly brain damage.

If they have no one living with them at home, or no one capable of giving them the help they need, they have no choice but to go into a care facility.

But what they get is often the very opposite of "care."

They get medicated -- often over-medicated with drugs they never even needed in the first place, including antidepressants, sedatives, hypnotics and powerful antipsychotic drugs.

All of these meds come with big risks, up to and including death. And now, new research finds that the last set of meds I just mentioned -- antipsychotic drugs -- can slice through your brain like a hot knife through butter, causing brain damage.

Simply put, people who take them lose brain tissue.

The higher the dose, the more brain tissue you lose -- and the more brain tissue you lose, the higher your risk of brain damage, cognitive decline, dementia and even Alzheimer's disease.

The new study focused on some 200 schizophrenics, one of the few conditions the drugs are actually approved for. But don't rest easy if you're not suffering from this condition yourself. There are an estimated 2.4 million schizophrenics in this country, but more than 6 million Americans on antipsychotic drugs.

In other words, these drugs are most commonly used off-label, and they're used for practically everything -- including depression, anxiety and other mood conditions, post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia, brain damage, behavioral problems and more.

And the place you'll find them used most often is in nursing homes and care facilities, where they're often given to any senior deemed a little hard to handle -- including seniors who struggle to adjust to a life without independence.

They're not all mentally ill. Many are disoriented... and maybe a little upset and frustrated. But instead of working with the patient, they drug them -- and brain shrink isn't the only reason patients in care facilities often fall into rapid decline.

No, antipsychotics can actually worsen some behavior problems, which in turn leads to higher doses in an attempt to "control" the behavior -- the behavior that's actually being caused by the drug.

How's that for a vicious cycle?

The drugs have also been linked to other types of brain damage, neurological problems, obesity, diabetes, tremors and more.

They can even increase the risk of death by 70 percent.

That's why it's important to take action now, before you enter a care facility.

Have a meeting with your family members and other loved ones, and warn them of how these meds are often used and abused. Feel free to share this report with them.

Most importantly, make sure they know that you don't want to be given these drugs if the time comes when you need to enter a facility, even temporarily. Have your loved ones promise to keep watch over you, and you do the same for them.

As uncomfortable as it may be, the time to have that conversation is now -- because if you wait until you get into a care facility, it could be too late.