A new has study has found that prolonged use or higher doses of certain common drugs is associated with increased risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. The drugs falling in the category of anticholinergic block a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. The culprits include antidepressants like doxepin, first-generation antihistamines like chlorpheniramine, and some medications for bladder control like oxybutynin and a few sleeping pills.
“Older adults need to know that many medications, including over-the-counter sleep aids, have strong anticholinergic effects,” said Shelly Gray, director of the geriatric pharmacy programme at the University of Washington. “They should tell their health care providers about all their over-the-counter use.”
Nearly 3,500 seniors were followed by University of Washington researchers for more than seven years, during which they tracked their prescription medications and over-the-counter pills. They discovered thst people taking at least 10 milligrams a day of doxepin, 4 mg. of diphenhydramine or 5 mg. of oxybutynin for more than three years faced a greater dementia risk. According to Gray dementia is a common condition so any increased risk — regardless of the factor — is worrying, especially if there are alternative medications available. She said if physicians prescribe anticholinergic drugs because they’re the best option, they should give the lowest effective dose and stop when the drug is no longer needed.