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Too many drugs given to people with learning difficulties

In essence, the report into drug policy in the U.K. has found that some medics and healthcare staff have administered psychiatric drugs to people with ‘learning difficulties’ of the sort that are ordinarily given to people with forms of mental illness. Moreover, these drugs have been given without the reason being recorded and without any detailed diagnosis of the condition.

This stark finding comes from a review conducted by Public Health England. The review found that one in six adults with a learning disability have been prescribed an anti-psychotic drug by a medical doctor. Such medication is normally used to treat major mental illnesses. Data was drawn from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink program.

Key findings from the review are:

The report, based on data collected between April 2009 and March 2012, revealst:

17 percent of adults with a learning disability were being prescribed an antipsychotic by a family doctor, outside of the hospital system.
Of these, over fifty percent were not diagnosed, as recorded in their medical record, by the doctor who gave the prescription.
The types of drugs prescribed were for the following conditions: psychosis, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety.

Further, the report shows that 30,000 and 35,000 people with learning disabilities were prescribed an antipsychotic or antidepressant drug by a medic, at any given time. The drugs were not specific for the condition that the person had (learning difficulties). Instead drugs for more severe mental health conditions were given and here there is no proven medical evidence that the drug had any effect on the condition.

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Commenting on the findings, Gyles Glover, consultant in public health and co-director of the learning disabilities team for Public Health England is quoted as saying:

“Psychiatric drugs are often given to people with learning disabilities to try and manage challenging behavior. These drugs have important side effects, but the evidence that they are effective is limited.”

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