Thursday, June 16, 2022

Which Prescription Drugs Cause Memory Loss

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Meds That Trigger Memory Loss Or Confusion:

Alzheimers Breakthrough: Study Shows New Drug Slows Memory Loss | TODAY

Few people imagine that the medications they are taking could affect their cognitive ability. Health professionals rarely warn patients that a drug for fibromyalgia, overactive bladder, nerve pain or migraines could interfere with thinking or memory.

This is not the kind of side effect that most health professionals want to warn about. Lets be honest, no one wants to have spells of fuzzy brain or forgetfulness. If a physician or pharmacist cautions a patient that a new medicine might impact cognitive function in a negative way, that person might opt out of the program.

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.

” Not all drugs that cause memory loss are prescription medications. Many popular over-the-counter drugs also cause memory loss by blocking the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

Drugs that block the action of acetylcholine, causing low brain levels of acetylcholine, are known as anticholinergics.


Does this sound like you?

Fuzzy thinking, foggy focus, forgetfulness?

Lack of energy and drive?

Struggle to learn and make decisions?

A quality brain supplement can make a big difference.

You can take a look at the list created by The Peoples Pharmacy or download a PDF created by the Indiana University Center for Aging Research.

Not all anticholinergic drugs are equally hazardous, so these lists rate drugs by their level of anticholinergic activity mild, moderate, or severe.

Leo Galland, MD, a renowned functional medicine pioneer, has published an extensive list of anticholinergic substances that includes drugs and herbal remedies.

If your anticholinergic risk is high, we urge you to bring this to your doctors attention.

You Could Be Taking An Aed And Not Know It:

Before you say you dont have epilepsy and assume that you are not taking such medicines, be aware that they are often prescribed for pain. People with migraines frequently take topiramate to prevent their headaches. Some doctors use it off label to treat bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder .

Gabapentin and pregabalin are also prescribed for nerve pain . In addition, Lyrica is a mainstay in the treatment of fibromyalgia. At last count, more than 10 million people take one or the other of these drugs.

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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.

About Dr Leslie Kernisan Md:

20 Medications That Cause Memory Loss,Stop Using Them

Leslie Kernisan, MD, is a practicing geriatrician who believes that it shouldnt be so hard for older adults and families to get the right kind of help with health concerns. For more practical tips and to get her free quick guide to checking aging parents visit her new blog at:

Do you have experience with or stories about how prescription drugs may cause memory loss? Share them with us in the comments below.

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Causes Of Memory Loss

Here are some of the more common things that can cause memory loss:

Medications. A number of prescription and over-the-counter medications can interfere with or cause loss of memory. Possible culprits include: antidepressants, antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, muscle relaxants, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and pain medications given after surgery.

Alcohol, tobacco, or drug use. Excessive alcohol use has long been recognized as a cause of memory loss.

Smoking harms memory by reducing the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain. Studies have shown that people who smoke find it more difficult to put faces with names than do nonsmokers. Illegal drugs can change chemicals in the brain that can make it hard to recall memories.

Sleep deprivation. Both quantity and quality of sleep are important to memory. Getting too little sleep or waking frequently in the night can lead to fatigue, which interferes with the ability to consolidate and retrieve information.

Depression and stress. Being depressed can make it difficult to pay attention and focus, which can affect memory. Stress and anxiety can also get in the way of concentration. When you are tense and your mind is overstimulated or distracted, your ability to remember can suffer. Stress caused by an emotional trauma can also lead to memory loss.

How Memory Loss Can Be Caused By Over

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  • How Memory Loss Can Be Caused by Over-the-Counter Medication

  • Some common medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, have a certain property that can contribute to memory loss and mild cognitive impairment. Learn more about these drugs, how they may accelerate cognitive decline, and what to do if you or a loved one is taking one of these drugs and experiencing memory loss.

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    Treating The Accompanying Symptoms Of Dementia

    Dementia often causes a number of behavioural and psychological symptoms which can be very distressing.

    These may include depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, hallucinations, ideas of persecution, misidentification of relatives or places, agitation and aggressive behaviour. These symptoms may respond to reassurance, a change in the environment or removal of the source of any distress such as pain. However, sometimes medication may be required for relief.

    Major tranquillisers

    Major tranquillisers, also known as neuroleptics or anti-psychotics, are used to control agitation, aggression, delusions and hallucinations. Haloperidol is one commonly used drug. In modest doses this drug tends to cause symptoms similar to Parkinsons disease such as stiffness, shuffling gait and shakiness, and older people are very prone to these side effects. Some are unable to tolerate even low doses of Haloperidol.

    Newer tranquillisers such as Risperidone have fewer Parkinsons like side effects and have been studied more intensively in people with dementia than Haloperidol has. Risperidone appears to be helpful for the treatment of aggression and psychosis, but may be associated with a slight increase in risk of stroke.

    Olanzapine and Quetiapine are sometimes used, but have been less comprehensively studied in the treatment of dementia, and there is some evidence that Olanzapine may also be associated with increased risk of stroke.

    Drugs for treating depression

    Drugs for treating anxiety

    Medications That Have Side Effects

    20 prescription drugs, That, can Cause Memory Loss.

    Dr. David S. Knopman, a clinical neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, as well as a member of the Alzheimers Association Medical and Scientific Advisory Group, told Healthline that the key medications to look at are pain medications, sleep medications, anticholinergic medications, antidepressants, and other psychotropic drugs.

    He said the anticholinergic class of medications is often considered the worst offender.

    For all of them medication misadventures, somnolence, and increased confusion are the common concern, and the third is worsening gait and balance, he said. People who didnt have a prior diagnosis of impairment who are now acting confused, sleepy, or have more balance problems, that in somebody who doesnt have prior diagnosis should trigger a concern.

    Your doctor may suggest alternatives to medications that could potentially cause side effects.

    When I suggested to one of my patients that we try an alternative to Xanax like melatonin, she became very anxious, said Knopman. Its a difficult problem. Its one best treated by avoidance for starting it in the first place.

    Steinman stressed the importance of investigating the side effects medications could be causing.

    Unless were really active in exploring that opportunity sometimes it gets missed, and its just written off as dementia and the person sort of keeps deteriorating, he explained.

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    Memory Loss: Is Your Medicine Cabinet To Blame

    Memory lossits one of the most dreaded conditions in life. You may think genetics and aging are the only causes of memory problems. Theyre not! Did you know that forgetfulness and fuzzy thinking might be linked to your medicine cabinet?

    New research in the journal Neurology is revealing that taking a certain class of drugs called anticholinergics has been tied to problems with thinking and memory. There are about 100 types of anticholinergics, which are commonly used to treat high blood pressure, overactive bladder, motion sickness, Parkinsons disease, and even the common cold.

    The study found that people with no pre-existing cognitive issues who are taking at least one anticholinergic medication are 47% more likely to develop cognitive impairment. The risk is even higher among people with a genetic vulnerability for Alzheimers disease.

    This is alarming news, but unfortunately, anticholinergics arent the only medication that has been associated with memory problems. A number of commonly used prescription and over-the-counter drugs are associated with memory loss.

    Questions To Ask The Doctor If Drugs Are Prescribed

    • What are the potential benefits of taking this drug?
    • How long before improvement may be noticed?
    • What action should be taken if a dose is missed?
    • What are the known side effects?
    • If there are side effects, should the drug be stopped?
    • If the drug is stopped suddenly, what happens?
    • What drugs might interact with the medication?
    • How might this drug affect other medical conditions?
    • Are there any changes that should be reported immediately?
    • How often will a visit to the doctor who prescribed the drug be needed?
    • Is the drug available at a subsidised rate?

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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 )

    Common Causes Of Sleep Problems In Older Adults

    Stop Using These 20 Medications Because They Cause Memory Loss ...

    1. Sleep problems due to an underlying medical problem. Although older adults do often suffer from whats called primary sleep disorders, many sleep problems they experience are secondary sleep problems, meaning they are secondary to an underlying medical condition whose main symptoms are not sleep related.

    Common health conditions that can disrupt sleep in older adults include:

    • Heart and lung conditions which affect breathing, such as heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
    • Gastroesophageal reflux disease, which causes heartburn symptoms and can be affected by big meals late at night
    • Painful conditions, including osteoarthritis
    • Urinary problems that cause urination at night this can be caused by an enlarged prostate or an overactive bladder
    • Mood problems such as depression and anxiety
    • Neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons
    • Medication side-effects

    If an older person is having difficulty sleeping, its important to make sure that one of these common conditions isnt contributing to the problem. Treating an underlying problem such as untreated pain at night can often improve sleep. It can also help to talk to a pharmacist about all prescription and over-the-counter drugs, to make sure that these arent contributing to insomnia.

    Alzheimers and related dementias pose special considerations when it comes to sleep, which I write about in this post: How to Manage Sleep Problems in Dementia.

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    What To Do If Youre On Any Of These Medications

    If youre taking any of these medications mentioned above, we recommend that you talk to your doctor if you believe its affecting your memory.

    Get your doctor to work with you to find better optionsdifferent prescriptions and/or making healthy lifestyle choices instead.

    Even if you have to stay on your medication, you can lessen the load on your brain by taking proactive steps such as eating a brain-healthy diet, getting the physical exercise your brain needs, and taking the right brain supplements.

    Give your brain the healthiest possible environment to stay mentally sharp in spite of your medications.


    Drugs To Treat The Cognitive Symptoms Of Dementia

    A number of drugs are currently available in Australia for use by people with dementia. These drugs fall into two categories, cholinergic treatments and Memantine.


    Cholinergic treatments offer some relief from the symptoms of Alzheimers disease for some people for a limited time. Drugs known as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors work by blocking the actions of an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase which destroys an important neurotransmitter for memory called acetylcholine.

    Current cholinergic treatments are approved for use for people with mild to moderate Alzheimers disease. A number of the acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are available as subsidised medicines under the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

    People may receive these drugs at nominal cost if a physician or psychiatrist has found them to have a diagnosis of Alzheimers disease.

    They must show improvement on a commonly used test of mental function in the first six months of treatment in order to receive further supplies of subsidised medication.


    Memantine targets a neurotransmitter called glutamate that is present in high levels when someone has Alzheimers disease. Memantine blocks glutamate and prevents too much calcium moving into the brain cells causing damage. It is the first in a new class of therapies and acts quite differently to the acetylcholinesterase inhibitors that are currently approved for treatment in Australia.

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    Proven Ways To Treat Insomnia In Older Adults

    Insomnia is a very common complaint among family caregivers and older adults. Fortunately, research has shown that its possible to treat insomnia effectively, although it does often take a little time and effort.

    Why Sedatives Arent the Way to Go and Proven Ways to Taper Off Them

    Before I go into the recommended treatments, let me say it again: you should only use sedatives as a last resort. Thats because most medications that make people sleepy are bad for brain function, in both the short-term and long-term.

    Benzodiazepines such as lorazepam, alprazolam, diazepam, and temazepam are also habit-forming. It can be a lot of work to wean people off these drugs, but research has proven its possible.

    For instance, in this randomized control study, many older adults who had been on benzodiazepines for sleep were able to taper off their sleeping pills. 63% were drug-free after 7 weeks.

    Plus, in my own personal experience, it becomes extremely difficult once a person has started to develop a dementia such as Alzheimers, because then their behavior and thinking can get a lot worse if they are a little sleep-deprived or anxious. But letting them continue to use their benzodiazepine puts us in a pickle, because it also keeps them from having the best brain function possible, is associated with faster cognitive decline, AND increases fall risk.

    Now, lets review some proven approaches to improving sleep in older adults.

    Proven ways to treat insomnia in older adults:

    Medicines That Can Cause Confusion:

    How medication is tied to memory loss

    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.

    Read Also: Lack Of Sleep Causes Brain To Eat Itself

    Medications That Block The Effects Of Acetylcholine

    Among the best-recognized cognitively dangerous medications are those with anticholinergic properties. This means that the medications block the effect of acetylcholine, an important brain chemical and neurotransmitter that becomes less plentiful in the aging brain. These medications have an impact on brain cells by occupying its receptor molecules, and can help people gain relief from symptoms of insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, or several other medical conditions. Also, many medications valued for their other effects have incidental anticholinergic properties. Among the clinically significant anticholinergic medications are medications such as tolteridine, often used to treat urinary incontinence. In addition, some antidepressants , antipsychotics, cardiac medications, antispasmodics, antivertigo medications, and antiparkinsonian medications have anticholinergic effects.

    Unfortunately, the undesired consequences of anticholinergic medications can be serious. Dry mouth, dry eyes, constipation, or urinary retention may occur. The toxic effects of anticholinergic medications on the brain include confusion, memory disturbance, agitation, and even delirium.

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