The Class of Over the Counter Medicines that are Increasing Dementia Risk

Drugs like Benadryl, Elavil, Doxepin, and Meclizine, amongst others, are what as known as anticholinergic drugs. These drugs block the action of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is important because it is a neurotransmitter in the nervous system. It’s job is to transmit messages from your brain to the rest of your body and back. It’s specialty in the brain is centered around memory, tasks and learning. Conversely, in the peripheral nervous system and elsewhere, it’s job is to stimulate muscle contraction. What drugs are in the anticholinergic class? Some antihistamines, overactive bladder medications, anti-Parkinson medications, and older versions of some antidepressants. (Don’t worry-they’ll be listed below)

The study which was published in the JAMA internal medicine in January 2015, tracked 3,434 participants ages 65 and older who took part in Adult Changes in Thought (ACT), a long-term prospective study conducted by a Seattle healthcare system. They used pharmacy records to determine all the drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, that each participant took up to 10 years prior to starting the study. Over seven years, 800 of the volunteers developed dementia. When the researchers directly examined anticholinergic drugs, they found that people who used these drugs were more likely to develop dementia than those participants who didn’t use them. Moreover, the risk of dementia increased in a dose dependent fashion. The more you take, the higher the chance of developing dementia! Taking an anticholinergic for the equivalent of three years or more was associated with a 54% higher dementia risk than taking the same dose for three months or less.

The body’s natural production of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine decreases with age, so blocking its effects can do double the damage to the elderly. It’s not surprising that problems with short-term memory, delirium and confusion are some of the main side effects of anticholinergic medications, which also include drowsiness, dry mouth, urine retention, and constipation. On top of heavy metals, this is yet another potential culprit responsible for the neurocognitive decline of our older generations. What are anticholinergic meds?

Here’s a pretty complete list:

Amitriptyline (Elavil)
Benztropine (Cogentin)
Chlorpheniramine (Actifed, Allergy & Congestion Relief, Chlor-Trimeton, Codeprex, Efidac-24 Chlorpheniramine, etc.)
Chlorpromazine (Thorazine)
Clomipramine (Anafranil)
Clozapine (Clozaril)
Cyclobenzaprine (Amrix, Fexmid, Flexeril)
Cyproheptadine (Periactin)
Desipramine (Norpramin)
Dicyclomine (Bentyl)
Diphenhydramine (Advil PM, Aleve PM, Bayer PM, Benadryl, Excedrin PM, Nytol, Simply Sleep, Sominex, Tylenol PM, Unisom, etc.)
Doxepin (Adapin, Silenor, Sinequan)
Fesoterodine (Toviaz)
Hydroxyzine (Atarax, Vistaril)
Hyoscyamine (Anaspaz, Levbid, Levsin, Levsinex, NuLev)
Imipramine (Tofranil)
Meclizine (Antivert, Bonine)
Nortriptyline (Pamelor)
Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
Orphenadrine (Norflex)
Oxybutynin (Ditropan, Oxytrol)
Paroxetine (Brisdelle, Paxil)
Perphenazine (Trilafon)
Prochlorperazine (Compazine)
Promethazine (Phenergan)
Protriptyline (Vivactil)
Pseudoephedrine HCl/Triprolidine HCl (Aprodine)
Scopolamine (Transderm Scop)
Thioridazine (Mellaril)
Tolterodine (Detrol)
Trifluoperazine (Stelazine)
Trimipramine (Surmontil)

Alternative remedies include butterbur (which performs as well as antihistamines), Nettie pots with saline rinses, acupuncture, organic diet changes, parasite cleanses, and steam baths all help.  Many food allergies present like seasonal allergies. Be cognizant of when your symptoms occur. Newer antihistamines like Claritin, did not have this same effect.

Speak to to your healthcare professional before stopping any medications. Question everything and be wise about your use of pharmaceutical drugs, whether they are prescription or over the counter.