(CNN) -- A 157-page Human Rights Watch report estimates nursing homes are giving more than 179,000 residents antipsychotic medications without the proper diagnoses.
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Most of these people are older and have dementia.
Researchers say facilities use the drug as a cost-effective chemical restraint to help overwhelmed staff.
"Antipsychotic drugs are FDA approved for the treatment of psychosis. And they are used in nursing homes, not to treat psychosis, but to keep people with dementia quiet and manageable," says Tony Chicotel, with the Tony Chicotel California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.
The FDA says the drugs can almost double the risk of death in these patients.
The report blames the government for lack of oversight.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services launched an initiative to combat the issue back in 2012. They say the effort reduced the use of antipsychotic drugs by 35%, but agree that more can be done.
The Human Rights Watch report suggests alternative treatment,s like reducing loneliness and creating routines.