The use of antipsychotic drugs in some long-term care homes in Canada is decreasing, according to a new report, as more non-drug treatments are being considered.

The report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, released Thursday, noted that 39 per cent of residents in long-term care facilities were prescribed an antipsychotic drug at least once in 2014.

The drugs are often prescribed to treat symptoms of dementia, such as aggression and agitation, as well as schizophrenia and other psychoses. But antipsychotics can have harmful side effects and may increase the risk of falls among seniors.

According to the CIHI, antipsychotic use was highest among residents exhibiting highly aggressive behaviour.

However, the agency noted that 51.3 per cent of seniors who exhibited aggressive behaviours were prescribed the drugs, suggesting that, even in the most severe cases, where residents or caregivers may be at risk of harm, non-drug treatment options are being considered.

Barbara Farrell, co-founder of the Canadian Deprescribing Network, said the report shows a positive trend towards limiting the use of antipsychotics. She noted that only 22 per cent of seniors in long-term care facilities were taking the drugs on a regular basis.

"That suggests to me that most of the medications were used periodically…and then discontinued," Farrell told CTV's Canada AM on Friday.

Jordan Hunt, manager of Pharmaceuticals at CIHI, said there are a number of initiatives across Canada that have been successful in decreasing the use of antipsychotics in long-term care homes.

"While there is still room for improvement, a lot of work has been done," he said in a news release.

The CIHI noted that, between 2010 and 2014, the use of antipsychotics in long-term care facilities in Manitoba fell from 38 per cent to 31.5 per cent. During that time, front-line staff were encouraged to implement creative solutions to manage dementia behaviours, with medication only to be used as a last resort.

However, Farrell said that over-prescribing all types of medications to seniors remains a problem in Canada.

She said among seniors over 85 years old, approximately 39 per cent are taking more than 10 types of drugs.

"Which is a lot of medication for an older person," she said. "As people age they become more sensitive to side effects."