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Common Over-the-Counter Drugs Linked to Dementia Risk

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In a study published Monday, a link was shown between some over-the-counter medication and an increased risk of dementia.

According to CNN, researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine found that anticholinergic drugs are linked with cognitive impairment and an increased risk of dementia.

Anticholinergic drugs are sold over the counter and by prescription to be used as sleep aids and to help with chronic diseases like hypertension, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Some medications that fall into this class are Benadryl, Demerol, Dimetapp, Dramamine, Paxil, Unisom and VESIcare.

This study examined the physical changes that drive cognitive decline, and they found lower metabolism and reduced brain sizes among people taking these types of drugs.

The study looked 451 people, an average age of 73, 60 of them taking at least one medication with medium or high anticholinergic activity. Researchers used memory and cognitive tests, PET scans, and MRI scans.

People who were on anticholinergic drugs did worse on short-term memory tests, some verbal reasoning tests, some planning tests, and problem-solving test.

Researchers found lower signs of  brain activity in the brain overall and in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with memory and affected early by Alzheimer’s disease. They also found reduced brain volume and larger cavities inside the brain in the people in the study used anticholinergic drugs

The Indiana University Center for Aging Research conducted a study in 2013 that cognitive problems could develop after taking drugs with a strong anticholinergic effect continuously for as few as 60 days and drugs with a weaker effect within 90 days.

“Given all the research evidence, physicians might want to consider alternatives to anticholinergic medications, if available, when working with their older patients,” Shannon Risacher, an assistant professor of radiology and imaging sciences told CNN.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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