Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Scientists at the University of Exeter, King’s College London and the University of Bergen tracked162 dementia patients, half of whom were given the drug, with the remainder given a placebo.They found 52 per cent of those put on the opiates suffered such ill-effects that they stopped treatment, with personality changes, confusion and sedation among the most common problems.Among the control group, 13.3 per cent suffered such effects.Researchers called for an urgent review of the use of such drugs in order to prevent unnecessary harm and deaths.Around half of people with dementia who are living in care homes experience clinically significant pain. Painkillers which are routinely given to dementia patients can triple the chance of suffering harmful side effects and personality changes, research suggests.The study involving UK scientists found more than half of those given the drugs suffered adverse effects, with many increasingly confused and sedated by drugs which were supposed to treat pain.Up to 40 per cent of dementia patients living in care homes are given opioid-based painkillers, such as the drug buprenorphine.Researchers said the use of such pills was “doing more harm than good”, calling for an urgent review of their use. At the moment we’re harming people when trying to ease their painProfessor Clive Ballard Previous research has recognised that pain is often under-diagnosed and poorly managed in people with dementia, impacting on quality of life.Professor Clive Ballard, from the University of Exeter, said: “Pain is a symptom that can cause huge distress and it’s important that we can provide relief to people with dementia.”Sadly at the moment we’re harming people when we’re trying to ease their pain. We urgently need more research in this area, and we must get this dosing right.”The findings were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2018 in Chicago.