Certain popular drugs can increase the risk of older adults developing dementia
These drugs have some mechanisms that are similar to those in important regions of the brain but are used mainly as ingredients in OTC (over-the counter) allergy, cold, cough and sleep medication and in the treatment of depression and overactive bladder.
Diphenhydramine is the drug that is usually associated with dementia, and is used in a several popular brand name products like Triaminic Allergy, Theraflu Nytol Sominex, Benadryl and more. It has also been implicated in drugs for overactive bladder that contain tolterodine (Detrol), oxybutynin (Ditropan) and chlorpheniramine (Aller-Chlor), as well as tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline or doxepin .
These drugs have been linked to reduced acetylcholine activity as well as mild cognitive impairment
Acetylcholine is a very important chemical in the brain that helps in transmitting nerve impulses. It is especially important when it comes to the proper functioning of memory and cognition. For instance, the dramatic reduction in the levels of acetylcholine has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Given that poor brain function, such as dementia, has been associated with reduced levels of acetylcholine, studies have associated lowered acetylcholine activity and mild cognitive impairment with drugs, including the ones that we mentioned earlier.
These drugs have been proven to cause confusion and drowsiness in the short-term, which is listed in the prescribed information. The long-term side effects of these drugs and how they affect the way the brain functions is largely unknown by physicals and the individuals who take them.
Other drugs, such as antihistamines and sleeping pills, have also been associated with the increased incidence of dementia. Both OTC and prescription drugs that have been mentioned are being used at alarming rates by the population of elderly people, which has greatly increased the incidence of dementia.
New research shows that using these drugs, even at low doses, should be avoided
To determine whether the cumulative use of anticholinergic drugs is linked to an increased risk of dementia, scientists analyzed 3,434 medical records from participants who were 65 years old and above and didn’t have dementia when the study started. They started recruiting from 1994 to 1996 and then from 2000 to 2003 and also included data that was obtained up to the 30th of September, 2012 in the evaluation.
Pharmacy records that were computerized where used to determine exposure to anticholinergic drugs. As the respondents were followed up over a period of 10 years, the researchers updated the cumulative response. Anticholinergic drugs were being using by nearly 20% of the population, according to the findings.
As the records where being analyzed, 23.2% (797) of the respondents were diagnosed with dementia, and 80% (637) of them were later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A cumulative dose-response relationship of 10 years was discovered for Alzheimer’s and dementia. The threshold with the highest incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s when it came to the use anticholinergic drugs was taking the minimal daily effective dose each day for three years.
With these results, the researchers who conducted the study have proposed efforts to raise awareness in the medical community and elderly population about the risk of using anticholinergic drugs over time.