7 common drugs linked to higher risk of dementia

THESE common drugs are in almost everything, from allergy medicines to painkillers. 

Research has linked these drugs to increased risk of Alzheimer's disease and also to hospitalisations in older adults. 

The drugs have the opposite effect of medications often used to treat Alzheimer's. Donepezil (brand name Aricept), for example, increases the neurotransmitter acetylcholine by blocking the brain enzyme that breaks it down.

So for better brain health, it's definitely worth learning to spot these drugs and avoid them. Here are seven common types of anticholinergic drugs

1. Sedating antihistamines. The prime example is diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl), which is available over-the-counter and has strong anticholinergic activity. Non-sedating antihistamines, such as loratadine (brand name Claritin) are less anticholinergic and are safer for the brain.

2. PM versions of over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers. Most OTC painkillers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen (brand names Tylenol and Motrin, respectively) come in a "PM" or night-time formulation, which means a mild sedative - usually an antihistamine - has been mixed in. This is also apparent in  night-time cold and cough medications.

3. Medications for over-active bladder. These include bladder relaxants such as oxybutynin and tolterodine (brand names Ditropan and Detrol, respectively).

4. Medications for vertigo or motion sickness. Meclizine (brand name Antivert) is often prescribed to treat benign positional vertigo. It's also used to treat motion sickness.

5. Medications for itching. These include the strong antihistamines hydroxyzine (brand name Vistaril) and diphendyramine (brand name Benadryl), which are often prescribed for itching or hives.

6. Medications for nerve pain. An older class of antidepressant known as "tricyclics" isn't used for depression that much any longer, but it's still used to treat pain from neuropathy. (These are also prescribed to reduce the chance of chronic nerve pain after shingles.) Commonly-used tricyclics include amitriptyline and nortriptyline.

7. Muscle relaxants. These include drugs such as cyclobenzaprine (brand name Flexeril) and they are often prescribed for back or neck pain.


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