OTC Drugs Linked to Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
Many people go to the pharmacy everyday with the intentions of picking up something to help with their allergies, a slight case of the flu, or getting something to help them sleep better. What most people do not think of is how this over the counter drug (OTC) may effect them long term, years later down the road. What recent studies are finding is that some otc drugs linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s are ones that are commonly used everyday. These drugs include popular non-prescription sleep aids and Benadryl (a popular over the counter antihistamine used to treat allergies).
These types of drugs fall into a category called Anticholinergic drugs. These drugs block the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine in the brain and body. Blocking this neurotransmitter can cause numerous other side effects up to and including: dry mouth and eyes, constipation, drowsiness, and urine retention. The key issue is that many adults use these over the counter drugs without a second thought and may not be reporting their usage to their healthcare providers. Patients should disclose all of this information to their providers, so that their provider can find alternative medicines to help with their existing ailments and still promote healthy cognitive functions today and later down the line. If they absolutely must use these Anticholinergic drugs as treatment, then they should try to use the lowest dosage possible.
A recent study has shown that taking these Anticholinergic drugs for a period of more than 3 years or longer increased the risk of dementia exponentially. The study tracked 3,500 participants over age 65 who exhibited no dementia symptoms at the beginning of the study. The participants pharmacy records were used to track what types of drugs were being dispensed to them. Over the course of 7 years more than 800 (or 22 percent) of the participants who were taking different Anticholinergic drugs developed dementia. One could conclude from this startling number that otc drugs linked to dementia are the cause of this jump in numbers. There are alternatives to taking many of these types of drugs. Fundamentally the most important thing to do is be open and up front about your concerns with your health care professional. Ask about alternatives to anticholinergic drugs such as Prozac for depression and Claritin for allergies. Also behavioral changes may be needed to help with other ailments when alternatives for anticholinergic drugs are not available. Before changing any type of medications whether it be prescription or over the counter, see your health care professional.