Disturbing news has come out of a recent medical study indicating that certain drugs (many of them over-the-counter) that are commonly used by adults in sleep problems, motion sickness, depression and pain have been found to damage the brain. So if you are wanting to improve your memory, memory training may not be the only answer. Perhaps looking in the medicine cabinet.
Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine Center for Aging Research conducted researcher over a five-year span involving 1,652 African-Americans over the age of 70 who resided in the Indianapolis area. When the study began all had normal brain function.
Most of us consider over-the-counter drugs safe, even though they contain chemicals whose names we can’t pronounce. The drugs in the survey shown to have negative effects on the bran are called “anticholinergics,” and they affect the brain by blocking a neurotransmitter in the nervous system that is important to brain function — acetylcholine. Alzheimer’s patients have been shown to have a shortage of acetylcholine.
Fifty-three percent of the participants in the study were given a ‘possible anticholinergic’ drug, while 11 percent were administered a ‘definitive anticholinergic’ drug. Researchers found that those who took drugs classified as ‘definite anticholinergics’ (such as diphenhydramine) had four times the number of incidence of cognitive impairment, and those who took two or more increased the odds even further. According to the findings. “Taking one anticholinergic significantly increased an individual’s risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and taking two of these drugs doubled this risk.”
Based on the results of this study, you can help to lower your chances for dementia as you get older if you eliminate any drug that contains a definitive anticholinergic drug. Senior should eliminate them entirely and speak to their physician as to alternative ways to address their specific needs. As I train for the USA Memory Championship every year I really try to stay away for months from any type of medication that makes me drowsy because as I attempt to improve my memory with memory training I don’t want to be battling a drowsy head.
Over-the-counter drugs that contain a anticholinergics are:
- Excedrin PM
- Nytol; Sominex
- Tylenol PM
Prescription drugs with anticholinergics include:
These drugs are used as sleep aids, antidepressants; medications to control incontinence; and pain relievers. As a matter of fact, many of those now sold as over-the-counter were prescription drugs that were carefully monitored. Memory training can only do so much to improve your memory if you are taking these pills.
The IU study was actually the first to identify a possible link between these drugs — and loss of mental function, as well as risk of death. “Our findings make it clear that clinicians need to review the cumulative anticholinergic burden in people presenting with problems memorizing or other cognitive skills to determine if the drugs are causing decline in mental status,” said co-author Malaz Boustani, M.D., Regenstrief Institute investigator and associate professor of medicine. This study also indicates that drugs with anticholinergic effects might explain the sharp rise in dementia and cognitive decline.
“Simply put, we have confirmed that anticholinergics, something as seemingly benign as a medication for inability to get a good night’s sleep or for motion sickness, can cause or worsen cognitive impairment, specifically long-term mild cognitive impairment which involves gradual memory loss,” said Dr. Boustani.
This is Ron White, two-time USA Memory Champion , memory training expert, and memory keynote speaker. This information is surprising and not just a little frightening; to think that something most people believe is safe to take can actually be a contributor to the mental decline in Alzheimer’s disease.
Psyorg – Common drugs linked to cognitive impairment and possibly to increased risk of death: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-06-common-drugs-linked-cognitive-impairment.html