March 26 (UPI) -- Opioid analgesics helped doctors reduce the use of antipsychotics and benzodiazepines to treat with Alzheimer's disease, researcher report in a new study from Finland.
The two types of drugs' behavioral and psychiatric can ease symptoms of dementia but could also make other symptoms worse, including pain -- and long-term use is not recommended. Opioid analgesics includes natural ones, such as morphine and codeine, and synthetic ones, including methadone and fentanyl.
Researchers analyzed antipsychotic and benzodiazepine use six months before and six months after people with Alzheimer's disease were prescribed an opioid, finding the need for the other drugs went down, according to findings published Wednesday in the journal International Psychogeriatrics.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland, included 3,327 people with Alzheimer's disease diagnosed during 2010-11. Half the people took an opioid and the other half did not.
The researchers found a downward trend of antipsychotics and benzodiazepines, and a greater dive in use of antipsychotics.
Before opioid initiation, the antipsychotic use among opioid initiators was 13.3 percent, 18.3 percent at opioid initiation and 17.3 percent six months later. For BZDR, use was 27.1 percent six months prior, 28.9 percent at opioid initiation and 26.9 percent six months later.
After opioid initiation, antipsychotic and BZDR use declined by 0.3-0.4 percentage points until the end of the follow-up, which the researchers say suggests opioids could reduce the need for the other two drugs looked in the study.
"Our results suggest that opioid initiation may reduce antipsychotic and benzodiazepine use people with Alzheimer's disease," the researchers wrote in the study.