Prescribing of psychoactive drugs for chronically ill elderly patients.
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The prescribing of psychoactive drugs for 1431 chronically ill elderly patients being assessed for long-term institutional or community care was surveyed. Psychoactive drugs had been prescribed for about one quarter of the patients; benzodiazepines were the most frequently prescribed group. Judging from the extensive prescribing of flurazepam and chloral hydrate, commonly used hypnotics, the main reason psychoactive drugs were prescribed was to provide night-time sedation. Antidepressants and drugs promoted as useful in improving cognitive function were infrequently prescribed. Commendable prescribing practices included the infrequent use of "cerebral vasodilators" and barbiturates. Questionable prescribing practices included the infrequent use of tricyclic antidepressants in severely depressed patients and the use of tranquilizers in patients described by their attending physician as markedly or extremely withdrawn.
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