Medication Pathway

Section A Introduction

Why is information about psychotropic medication important?

The UK government has recognised that too many people with a learning disability, autism or both are prescribed psychotropic medication that they don’t need. A study in 2015 estimated that around 30,000 adults with a learning disability, autism or both in England were taking antipsychotics, antidepressants or both, without being diagnosed with the mental health problems the medications are for. In response to this issue, NHS England launched STOMP, a project about stopping the over-medication of people with a learning disability, autism or both. This Information Pack is part of the STOMP work for families and was commissioned by NHS England.

Work with family carers by the CBF identified that often it is family carers who speak up for their relatives and raise concerns about medication. The aim of this resource is to ensure that family carers are informed about medication and to support families to take action about any concerns they have.

Avoiding inappropriate medication is important for a number of reasons:

  • It can often be difficult for someone to stop taking psychotropic medication, especially when they have been taking it for a long time due to the effects the medication has on the body.
  • Side effects of psychotropic medication can have a negative impact on a person’s quality of life and health, including being at risk of significant weight gain or organ failure.
  • Although it is uncommon, side effects of psychotropic medication can be serious and even life threatening if not monitored closely.
  • Once medication has been prescribed, there can be less motivation to explore alternative interventions such as Active Support, modifying the person’s environment or Positive Behaviour Support.
  • Inappropriate or over-medication is a restrictive practice. The use of restrictive practices should be reduced as much as possible so that people can live with as much freedom as possible.

Advice to family carers from NHS England:

  • Firstly, it’s important that you don’t stop taking any medicines or change them without professional medical advice first because this could be dangerous.
  • If you are worried, either for yourself or someone you know, about the medicines being taken please speak to the person responsible for prescribing these medicines as soon as possible and ask for them to be reviewed. This will usually be a GP, psychiatrist, specialist doctors, pharmacist or nurse prescriber.
  • Please remember:
    • not all medicines that are prescribed to people with learning disabilities are medicines to treat mental illnesses, such as antipsychotics. If you have any concerns, please check and speak to the person responsible for prescribing them (GP, specialist doctor, pharmacist or nurse prescriber).
    • medicines used to treat mental illness can be very effective in treating some people with learning disabilities when used appropriately.