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Treating Behavioral Symptoms of AD

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By 1999 Progress Report of NIA/NIH • • December 13, 1999

Behavioral symptoms--agitation, aggression, wandering, and sleep disorders--are common in AD patients and can be serious. Physicians now have several treatments for these symptoms, such as antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, and sedatives, but researchers continue to search for better treatments, including non-drug approaches.

One new ADCS clinical trial is focusing on alleviating sleep disturbances, a common problem for AD patients. Nighttime wandering and agitation can result in injury for patients and disrupted sleep for caregivers. In this study, groups of patients will be given either a slow-release preparation of melatonin (a naturally occurring hormone that induces sleepiness), an immediate-release preparation of melatonin, or a placebo. This trial is now in progress.

Another ADCS study focuses on agitation, a problem affecting 70 to 90 percent of AD patients and one that can make caring for a patient at home very difficult. Drugs are commonly used to control signs of agitation, but they can have distressing side effects. This study compared, over a 4-month period, non-drug behavior management techniques with traditional medication approaches and no intervention to see which were more effective. The trial has been completed and results are now being analyzed.

National Institutes of Health
National Institute on Aging

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