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Antidepressants Can Help Agitation Associated with Alzheimer's, Study Shows

  A new study published in the most recent issue of the Journal of American Medical Association shows a popular antidepressant can relieve agitation associated with Alzheimer's disease.

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses patients can become restless and short-tempered. Anton Porsteinsson, Professor of Psychiatry at University of Rochester, calls the symptoms distressing for both the patient and their caregivers.

“Quite often we would hear: he was never like this. Or she was the kindest person you've ever met and I do not understand why she or he is behaving this way now,” said Porsteinsson.

More than 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease. Agitated behaviors associated with the disease are the most common reason patients are moved to nursing facilities.

Doctor Porsteinsson led a recent study that found a daily dose of Citalopram relieved restlessness and irritation in 40% of participants.

“[This treatment] not only significantly reduces their agitation and agitated behaviors, but also to a degree that caregivers realize it. There's reduction in caregiver distress. There are still people that will need other options besides what we are offering here,” said Porsteinsson.

Researchers saw side-effects including a risk of irregular heart beat and deteriorated cognition, but say they are less pronounced than with other common treatments.