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Can Pain Medication Cause Memory Loss

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How Opioids Are Drugs That Cause Memory Loss

5 Popular Drugs That Cause Memory Loss & May Lead To Alzheimer’s – by Dr Sam Robbins

Opioids also impair both short and long-term memory by inhibiting our perception of pain within the central nervous system and dulling our reaction to it. The Yale School of Medicine examined individuals who overdosed onopiates and suffered amnesia as a result. What they found was that there was swelling in the cerebellum and hippocampus.

In general, brain swelling can result in memory loss. Drug-induced brain swelling makes permanent memory loss and the ability to form memories overall even more likely. Opioid abuse can result in other cognitive disabilities down the line without medical intervention.

What The Studies Found

It’s important to note that neither of these studies was a randomized controlled clinical trial, so neither proved that either type of drug causes dementia.

The anticholinergic study. Researchers tracked nearly 3,500 men and women ages 65 or older who took part in Adult Changes in Thought , a long-term study conducted by the University of Washington and Group Health, a Seattle health care system. They used Group Health’s pharmacy records to determine all the drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, that each participant took in the 10 years before starting the study. Participants’ health was tracked for an average of seven years. During that time, 800 of them developed dementia. When the researchers examined medication use, they found that people who used anticholinergic drugs were more likely to have developed dementia than those who didn’t use them. Moreover, dementia risk increased along with the cumulative dose. Taking an anticholinergic for the equivalent of three years or more was associated with a 54% higher dementia risk than taking the same dose for three months or less.

The University of Washington study is the first to include nonprescription drugs. It is also the first to eliminate the possibility that people were taking the drugs to alleviate early symptoms of undiagnosed dementia. For people who took anticholinergic bladder medications, the increased risk was just as high as for those taking tricyclic antidepressants, which are also anticholinergics.

Anticholinergics: The Anti Drugs

Acetylcholine is the primary neurotransmitter of memory and learning.

When youre low in acetylcholine, you become forgetful and cant concentrate.

You may struggle to find the right words when you speak.

Acetylcholine deficiencies are associated with dementia and Alzheimers medications for these disorders work by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine in the brain.

Drugs that block the action of acetylcholine are known as anticholinergics.

Its easy to pick out many drugs that are anticholinergics because their common names start with anti as in:

  • antacids

Common side effects of anticholinergic drugs include:

  • blurred vision
  • lightheadedness
  • loss of bladder control

Low acetylcholine can lead to a cluster of symptoms that resembles dementia, including mental confusion, brain fog, incoherent speech, delirium, blurred vision, memory loss, and hallucinations.

Anticholinergic Drugs and Seniors

The side effects of anticholinergic drugs are more pronounced in seniors due to the natural decline in acetylcholine production that occurs with age.

The increased risk of dementia from anticholinergic drugs is significant around 30%.

Sadly, the use of anticholinergic drugs is known to increase the risk of falls and all-cause mortality in the elderly.

Anticholinergic Drug Lists

Rather than list all of the drugs known to be anticholinergic here, weve assembled a few reputable anticholinergic drug lists.

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Which Medications Can Affect Memory And Brain Function

Specific medications can affect the memory and brain function. Here are a few examples*:

Sleeping pills: Benzodiazepines , oxazepam , diazepam )

  • These medications are generally prescribed to people who have trouble sleeping. Learn more here

Sleeping pills: Non-benzodiazepine prescription sedatives or z-drugs , zolpidem )

  • These medications are generally prescribed to people who have trouble sleeping. Learn more here.

Over-the-counter sleeping aids )

  • These medications are available without a prescription and generally taken for insomnia . Learn more here.

Some anti-allergy medications , diphenhydramine )

  • These medications are generally used to treat itchy skin or allergies. More rarely, they may be used to treat insomnia or anxiety. Learn more here.

Some anti-nausea medications )

  • These medications are generally used to treat motion sickness when travelling.

Antipsychotics , risperidone )

  • These medications are often prescribed inappropriately for sleep or anxiety, or to treat symptoms of Alzheimers disease or other dementias. Learn more here.

Some antidepressants , nortriptyline , paroxetine )

  • Although these medications are called antidepressants, they are prescribed for a number of reasons, including for sleep, the prevention of migraines, the treatment of pain or depression.

Medications for urinary incontinence )

  • These medications may be prescribed to treat overactive bladder .

Muscle relaxants , methocarbamol )

Opioid medications , morphine , hydromorphone , oxycodone )

Memory Or Concentration Problems And Cancer Treatment

20 Prescribed Medications That Can Cause Memory Loss!

If treatment makes it hard to concentrate, talk with your nurse to get tips on how to keep track of important information.

Whether you have memory or concentration problems depends on the type of treatment you receive, your age, and other health-related factors. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy may cause difficulty with thinking, concentrating, or remembering things. So can some types of radiation therapy to the brain and immunotherapy.

These cognitive problems may start during or after cancer treatment. Some people notice very small changes, such as a bit more difficulty remembering things, whereas others have much greater memory or concentration problems.

Your doctor will assess your symptoms and advise you about ways to manage or treat these problems. Treating conditions such as poor nutrition, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and insomnia may also help.

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Signs Of Hydrocodone Addiction

Over time, a person can develop an addiction to hydrocodone, even without realizing it. The drug may impair a persons thinking, causing him to dismiss even the largest warning signs of addiction.

Common signs of hydrocodone addiction include the following:

  • Poor school or work performance
  • Anxiety and or agitation
  • Distancing self from family or friends
  • Stealing from loved ones
  • Sudden or recurring lack of money despite financial resources
  • Selling personal property
  • Taking higher doses of hydrocodone than prescribed
  • Taking hydrocodone more often than prescribed
  • Visiting more than one doctor to acquire multiple prescriptions
  • Constricted pupils

Changes In Remembering Pain

Patients who live in chronic pain have difficulty recalling their experience of pain accurately. It seems that the memories of chronic pain are stored incorrectly, leading patients to remember their experience as more severe than it actually was. This study on the matter explains that how differently patients recall their chronic pain from the actual experience is dependant on many factors including: emotional context, an individuals personality traits and mood, and the participants previous experience with pain

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Fuzzy Brain With Pregabalin And Gabapentin:

These drugs can cause confusion and thinking abnormal. The FDA describes it this way:

Thinking abnormal primarily consists of events related to difficulty with concentration/attention but also includes events related to cognition and language problems and slowed thinking.

Sounds a lot like brain fog to us. One reader wrote to tell us about his experience:

I was placed on Lyrica way back in 2010 for persistent foot and ankle pain following surgery. When I was diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy four years later, the doctors upped the Lyrica and then added other meds of a similar variety such as Topamax. I went so far into a Lyrica fog that I can barely remember anything from those years. Suffice it to say that my profession was ruined.

I still have significant memory issues even though my new doctor weaned me off Topamax and Lyrica in 2016. I felt like I had a helmet on my head the entire time I used that drug. Once it was gone, so was that feeling.

Another reader, Brenda in Houston, offered this reaction to gabapentin:

I can say that gabapentin gave me extreme brain fog and confusion. I became unable to cook because I would wander off with food cooking and burn the pan so badly I would have to rush it outside until the smoke cleared. I began to fear I would burn my house down!

Lucy was caught between a rock and a hard place. She has terrible nerve pain.

Gabapentin or pregabalin were the only treatments her doctor had to offer:

How Marijuana Is A Drug That Causes Memory Loss

How medication is tied to memory loss

Studies on the effects of THC, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, have been performed on rats. THC changes the way the hippocampus region of the brain, where memories are formed, processes information. Many studies suggest marijuanas effect on memory may depend on the age at which we begin using it. Early exposure to marijuana can inhibit learning and memory later in life.

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Better Managing Impact Of Chronic Pain

Doctors often struggle to manage their patients pain, since current therapies, in addition to being addictive, do not always work. But Whitlock said that even those patients who continue to suffer, and may be experiencing a more rapid cognitive decline as a result, can still be helped with assistive devices, physical and occupational therapy, or strategies, such as mindfulness techniques, that are aimed at increasing self-efficacy and curbing the emotional impact of chronic pain.

This is something I really feel we can do something about as clinicians, Whitlock said. Its part of taking care of the whole patient.

Other authors of the study include Grisell Diaz-Ramirez, MS W. John Boscardin, PhD Kenneth E. Covinsky, MD and Alexander K. Smith, MD, MPH, all of the Division of Geriatrics in the UCSF Department of Medicine and , ScD, MS, of the UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

Prescription Medications Short Term Memory Loss Cause

A number of prescription drugs, especially in combination with each other, can cause memory loss symptoms. Readers who experience signs of memory loss with any of the medications listed below should contact their physician for a possible drug interaction-memory loss evaluation.


Common prescriptions include: Alprazolam , chlordiazepoxide , clonazepam , diazepam , flurazepam , lorazepam , midazolam , quazepam , temazepam and triazolam

Opioid medications

See this page for further information.

Tricyclic antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants were initially developed in the 1950s. They are now commonly prescribed for other conditions such as chronic pain and eating disorders.

Common prescriptions include: Amitriptyline , clomipramine , desipramine , doxepin , imipramine , nortriptyline , protriptyline and trimipramine


Common medications include: diphenhydramine ,brompheniramine , carbinoxamine , chlorpheniramine , clemastine , and hydroxyzine

Newer-generation antihistamines such as loratadine and cetirizine tend to have fewer side effects related to memory impairment.


Common prescriptions include: Darifenacin , oxybutynin , solifenacin , tolterodine and trospium

Special note: Long term use of anticholinergics in older adults can significantly increase the probability of cognitive impairment and memory loss symptoms. See Ref 1, below.

Sleep aids

Common prescriptions include: Eszopiclone , zaleplon and zolpidem

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Two Common Classes Of Drugs Have Been Linked To Dementia Fortunately There Are Alternatives To Both

Image: Thinkstock

If you’re worried about developing dementia, you’ve probably memorized the list of things you should do to minimize your riskeating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, and keeping your mind and soul engaged. In addition, some of the drugs you may be taking to help you accomplish those things could increase your risk of dementia. In two separate large population studies, both benzodiazepines and anticholinergics were associated with an increased risk of dementia in people who used them for longer than a few months. In both cases, the effect increased with the dose of the drug and the duration of use.

These findings didn’t come entirely as a surprise to doctors who treat older people. The Beer’s List published by the American Geriatrics Society has long recognized benzodiazepines, antihistamines, and tricyclic antidepressants as potentially inappropriate for older adults, given their side effects. Such drugs are on the list because they share troubling side effectsconfusion, clouded thinking, and memory lapsesthat can lead to falls, fractures, and auto accidents.

Can Your Medicine Cause Confusion Or Memory Loss

These 20 Drugs Can Cause Memory Loss â? Caution

Have you experienced trouble finding the right word? What about forgetting someones name you should know? How about having a hard time finding your car at the supermarket or airport? Most of the time health professionals write off such confusion and memory loss as benign senescent forgetfulness. Senescent is doctorspeak for aging. Many people assume that aging dulls the brain. Theres a less scientific term for this phenomenon: senior moments. Its another way of saying that people have momentary lapses in memory or spells of brain fog. But sometimes medication can cause confusion or memory loss.

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How Can This Be Tackled

All of this can sound really worrying, but the majority of the effects chronic pain has on memory and mood can be reversed. This study explains that the cortical reorganization I mentioned earlier can be reversed through neuroplasticity. This means that just as the brain has learnt to produce chronic pain and the according changes within the brain, it can also be retaught to regain normal functioning. Grey matter volume can also be regained.

The longer a person has been in chronic pain, the more deeply embedded these changes are. This doesnt mean that they cant be reversed, but it does mean that it will take longer and require more work. This simply means that the sooner you seek effective treatment and learn how to effectively manage your pain, the sooner you can get things back under control.

Mental illness can be treated with talking therapies and medication if needed. Anxiety and depression can be recovered from. Fear can be tackled and functioning regained through appropriate treatment, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy . Stress levels can be reduced through highly effective treatments such as mindfulness, and the stress and pain cycle can be broken!

With the right treatment, you can live well and beyond chronic pain. Even though it might not feel like it sometimes, there is hope. To help you get there, check out our app for chronic pain download links below.

New Findings On Statin

A study in JAMA Internal Medicine may help to explain the controversial connection between cholesterol-lowering medications and memory loss. Researchers scrutinized health records of more than 11 million people who saw their primary care doctors from 1987 to 2013. They compared reports of memory problems by three groups of people:

  • 483,000 who were prescribed a statin to lower their cholesterol

  • 26,000 who were given another type of cholesterol-lowering drug to lower cholesterol, such as a fibrate or niacin

  • 483,000 who didn’t take any cholesterol drug.

People who took any kind of cholesterol druga statin or some other typewere nearly four times more likely to report memory loss right after starting on the drug, compared with people who didn’t take any kind of cholesterol drug.

Does this mean all cholesterol drugs, not just statins, affect memory? The researchers say this is possible. However, it is unlikely, given the fundamental differences in how statin and nonstatin cholesterol drugs work.

Another possible explanation is a well-known phenomenon called detection bias. People who start taking a new prescription drug are, not surprisingly, more likely to talk to their doctors and therefore have a chance to report any changes in memory they may notice. In other words, it’s more likely that the reported memory problems were coincidences, and not caused by taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.

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Could Lower The Threshold For Sick Leave

The tests taken by the participants can easily be transferred to challenges in daily life that have to do with orientation and memory, like remembering where you put the keys, where you parked the car, or remembering the password to your online bank account, according to Jacobsen.

If you experience several such impairments every day, you can easily feel hard hit.

Especially in working life, struggling to absorb new knowledge and to remember information from meetings can have serious consequences, says Jacobsen.

He fears that these challenges could lead to people not feeling competent in their work tasks, and might result in lower thresholds for sick leave.

Finding The Cause Of Memory Loss

20 prescription drugs, That, can Cause Memory Loss.

If you find that you are increasingly forgetful or if memory problems interfere with your daily life, schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause and best treatment.

To evaluate memory loss, your doctor will take a medical history, perform a physical exam — including a neurologic exam — and ask questions to test mental ability. Depending on the results, further evaluation may include blood and urine tests, nerve tests, and imaging tests of the brain such as computerized axial tomography scans or magnetic resonance imaging .

You may also be sent for neuropsychological testing, which is a battery of tests that help pinpoint the memory loss.

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Medicines That Can Cause Confusion:

Many antiepileptic drugs can cause:

cognitive-related dysfunction: confusion, psychomotor slowing, difficulty with concentration/attention, difficulty with memory, speech or language problems, particularly word-finding difficulties.

The FDA requires another serious warning with AEDs:

The increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior with AEDs was observed as early as one week after starting drug treatment with AEDs and persisted for the duration of treatment assessed.

If You Take One Of These Drugs

It’s always good to review the potential benefits and harms of these medications with your doctor. If a drug appears problematic, the two of you can explore alternatives by considering the reason it was prescribed and seeing if there is a different type of drug that can be used as a replacement.

Don’t stop taking the drugs on your own. It isn’t safe to quit most benzodiazepines and anticholinergic drugs “cold turkey.” Work with your clinician to develop a plan for tapering off them.

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