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Study Links Common Drugs to Dementia

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Shalini Shah1 year ago

According to reports, a study observed 451 people, with an average age of 73, who were taking at least one medication with medium anticholinergic activity. They found many common drugs were linked to increased risk of cognitive impairment in older patients.

About the Study

Common drugs like Benadryl, Demerol, Dramamine, Unisom, Dimetapp, VESIcare, and Paxil have been linked with an increased risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. These anticholinergic drugs are sold over the counter for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and sleep aids.

In the study, participants received PET scans and MRI scans. Additionally, memory and cognitive tests were conducted, which showed that those taking these drugs performed worse than others.

Another study conducted in 2013 also corroborated this study’s findings that anticholinergic drugs taken regularly can affect the brain in 60-90 days.  Problems occurred in short-term memory, verbal reasoning, problem-solving, and executive planning.

In the medicated patients, glucose metabolism, which is a marker for brain activity, was found to be lower. Lower glucose metabolism is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

These research findings have given clues to the biological basis for cognitive problems, but further research still needs to be conducted to really understand he mechanisms of the problem.

Information Regarding Anticholinergic Medication

  • Anticholinergic medications decrease acetylcholine activity to balance out the production of dopamine and acetylcholine.
  • These medications can have strong side effects that can cause drowsiness, acute cognitive impairment in those with dementia, and some confusion and hallucinations.
  • Several factors can influence whether a patient develops cognitive impairment when exposed to anticholinergic medications like:
    • Number of anticholinergic drugs and doses used
    • Baseline cognitive function
    • Patient’s response to medications
    • Sensitivity and metabolic processing


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