#11 Dementia Cause: Anticholinergic Drugs

 In Disease and Conditions, Memory

You’ve never heard of anticholinergic drugs?  No problem!

This should help:  Dozens of over the counter and prescription drugs used to treat allergies, hay fever, insomnia and several other common complaints are of this dementia-causing variety. 

Two recent studies concluded that seniors should avoid these common drugs to help avoid dementia:

  • NyQuil
  • Benadryl
  • Claritin
  • Actifed
  • Advil PM
  • Sominex
  • Aleve PM
  • Unisom
  • Bayer PM
  • Nytol
  • Excedrin PM
  • Simply Sleep
  • Tylenol PM

Most drugs on this list are over-the-counter.  I think we’d all agree that it’s a pretty long list of very common drugs. 

Unfortunately, the list of prescription drugs causing this problem is considerably longer than the over-the-counter list. 

It might not be a bad idea for ALL who value their brains to avoid them ALL. 

What do all these drugs have in common?  They are all anticholinergic drugs and contain diphenhydramine.  You don’t need to know what these big words mean.  But you do need to know what these drugs do: 

One study tied the use of anticholinergic drugs to a 60% increase in risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  That’s not falling too short of doubling your chances of losing your mind.

People who took them did worse than others not taking the drugs on short term memory tests, decision making, verbal reasoning, problem solving and planning. 

Anticholinergics also shrink the brain. In fact, the brains of the those taking anticholinergics were, on average, four per cent smaller, while the cavities (empty spaces) inside the brain were 12 per cent larger.

Anticholinergics are also the main ingredient in many other drugs as well, including antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft, and medications for pain relief, bladder control, ulcers, dizziness and motion sickness.

Because so many varied drugs contain the offending ingredient, it isn’t uncommon for someone to be taking three or four of them all at the same time.  As an example, a woman might be taking something for bladder control, another drug for depression, a third for insomnia and a fourth for heartburn.  Together, they multiply the likelihood of dementia. 

Or another example:  Someone taking Tylenol PM to get to sleep, amitriptyline to ease nerve pain and Claritin for allergies could easily end up disoriented and forgetful.

Add this to the lead, fluoride, aluminum, sugar, smoke, aspartame, mercury and all the other causes we’ve listed and you can see why dementia centers are popping up like toadstools after a spring rain. 

You might find it amusing (or tragic) that none of these causes appear anywhere in the Alzheimer’s Association website! 

Once again, YOU have to know what to avoid if you want to keep your brain alive and well. 

Two or three more causes of dementia yet to come.  Stand by . . . 

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