Kiwis likely using antipsychotics for sleep, says psychiatrist

Long Lunch 17/08/2018
Photo: File.

A study suggests that New Zealanders are being prescribed more antipsychotics than ever before, but not for psychosis or schizophrenia as they are intended for.

The University of Otago study found that antipsychotic prescriptions have increased by nearly 50 percent in fewer than ten years, despite no increase in psychosis rates.

The research suggests that New Zealanders are using the prescription drugs off-label to calm, relax, control or aid their sleep, rather than to treat symptoms like hallucinations and delusions.

“Because they are being used this way, we really need to have proper trials to test their efficacy and safety,” says Prof Roger Mulder, a psychiatrist and author of the study.

A lack of good sleeping tablets available to GPs may be driving the antipsychotics prescription increase, says Prof Mulder.

He told RadioLIVE that patients should be told that they’re being prescribed low-dose antipsychotics that lack research on side effects when used off-label.

Antipsychotic usage has increased across all groups and regions according to Ministry of Health prescription data, but the West Coast is the highest-using area.

The biggest usage increase was for atypical antipsychotics, in particular quetiapine and olanzapine, which made up 82 percent of the prescriptions. Atypical antipsychotics were developed in the 1990s and tend to produce different side effects than traditional antipsychotics developed in the 1960s.

The study was featured in the latest edition of the New Zealand Medical Journal.

Listen to the full interview with Roger Mulder above.

The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.