Certain Antidepressants, Sleep Aids Associated with Higher Dementia Risk

Rob Wipond
3
1945

Greater cumulative doses of antihistamines, tricyclic antidepressants and other drugs that are anticholinergic or block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine are associated with significant increases in dementia and Alzheimer’s, according to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“We have known for some time that even single doses of these medications can cause impairment in cognition, slower reaction time, [and] reduced attention and ability to concentrate,” the study’s lead author Shelley Gray from the University of Washington told LiveScience. Originally, “the thinking was that these cognitive effects were reversible when you stopped taking the medication.” But Gray’s study found a link between heavier use of these medications and increasing, irreversible cognitive impairment.

The researchers identified 3,434 people who were ages 65 and older and were free from dementia at the start of the Adult Changes in Thought study, and followed them for about seven years. “The researchers found that the higher a patient’s cumulative dose of anticholinergic medication over the 10 years before entering the study, the greater his or her risk of dementia,” reported LiveScience. The finding held true even when the researchers attempted to adjust for the possibility that some of the drugs might be being prescribed specifically to treat dementia symptoms.

“Older adults should be aware that many medications – including some available without a prescription, such as over-the-counter sleep aids – have strong anticholinergic effects,” Gray told The Guardian.

Gray SL, Anderson ML, Dublin S, and et al. “Cumulative Use of Strong Anticholinergics and Incident Dementia: A Prospective Cohort Study.” JAMA Internal Medicine, January 26, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7663. (Abstract)

Widely Used Drugs Tied to Greater Dementia Risk for Seniors (LiveScience, January 26, 2015)

Study suggests sleeping drugs can increase risk of Alzheimer’s (The Guardian, January 27, 2015)

3 COMMENTS

  1. “We have known for some time that even single doses of these medications can cause impairment in cognition, slower reaction time, [and] reduced attention and ability to concentrate,” perhaps this information should be in black box warnings on all these drugs? Especially since the doctors are lying to the patients about this, and using this period of “impairment in cognition, slower reaction time, [and] reduced attention and ability to concentrate” as an opportunity to railroad innocent patients into the psychiatric system for life, and for their own personal unethical financial motives.

    It is certainly starting to look like the pharmaceutical industry is in the business of dumbing down and harming the public, rather than providing helpful cures though. Perhaps we should break up the pharmaceutical cartel and go back to a competitive market, so truly innovative cures might possibly be developed?

    • I was prescribed Zyprexa and it caused me to fall asleep while riding a bike in the middle of a busy street – no kidding. This was the first time I took it and I was lucky not to kill myself or cause a major accident. When I went back to the psychiatrist and asked him why the hell didn’t he warn me that could happen he was just like “well they can make you A BIT tired”. I honestly thinks that the fact these guys don’t get slapped around by their patients more often is stunning. I surely wanted to punch him in the face at that point. Of course I left and went to another one only to discover they’re all pretty much the same: ignorant and refusing any responsibility and not even listening to what you tell them.