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Prescription and Common Over-the-Counter Drugs May Increase Odds of Dementia

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Farren Washington3 years ago

JAMA Internal Medicine published an article last week discussing a potential link between the long-term use of anticholinergic medications like Benadryl and dementia. 

What are Anticholinergics?

Anticholinergics are a class of drugs that block the action of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine is a substance that is released in the brain during learning, and is crucial for the acquisition of new memories.

Anticholinergics are used to treat diseases like: asthma, incontinence, stomach cramps, and muscular spasms. They are also prescribed for depression and sleep disorders.

The drugs help to block involuntary movements of the muscles associated with these diseases.

About the Long-Term Study

Shelley Gray, a pharmacist at the University of Washington’s School of Pharmacy, and a team of collegues recruited over 3,500 men and women all between the ages 65 and older to participate in their long-term study Adult Changes in Thought (ACT).

They utilized pharmacy records to determine every prescription and over-the-counter drug that each individual took within the last 10 years prior to starting the study.

The participants were monitored for approximately seven years. 

Description of Long-Term Study Results

According to Harvard Health, eight hundred of the original test subjects developed dementia. It was discovered that people who used anticholinergic drugs were more at risk to develop dementia in comparison to those that didn't use them.

The odds also increased along with the cumulative dose. Those who do use the drugs for a period of three years or more have a 54% higher dementia risk than those who took it for three months or less.

The ACT results proved that anticholinergics should not be taken long-term if you want a healthy mind, and then be able to maintain it into old age. The body’s production of acetylcholine decreases the older we get, so therefore the blocking of its effects can be devastating for older people.  


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