Are Over-The-Counter Drugs Causing Dementia? What You Need To Know


You’re likely familiar with anticholinergic drugs, even if you don’t know what they are. They’re fairly common over-the-counter medications used to treat everything from sleep problems to gastrointestinal distress. But an increasing body of evidence, including a new study, indicates older adults should stay away from them, as there’s a real risk to the brain.

Anticholingerics block a neuromodulator, acetylcholine, and it’s been suspected that long-term dosage of them has had effects on cognition for some time. But the University of Indiana recently completed and released a study that would seem to underscore just how serious this is. Brain imaging of patients regularly taking anticholingerics found larger ventricles, the cavities inside the brain, and reduced brain volume while struggling with both short-term memory and executive tasks such as verbal reasoning.

That indicates a biological cause, although why blocking acetylcholine causes this is a question we’ve yet to find an answer to. Inside the brain, acetylcholine serves as a chemical that helps you process information. For example, it’s believed that it’s tied to faster reaction to what your senses detect, for example. Why this would affect brain volume is a mystery researchers are currently working on, to add to the many baffling mysteries that organ provides us.

The good news is that if you’re not a senior citizen, you probably don’t have to worry about the effects of these medications, and you likely shouldn’t be taking them on a daily basis in the first place. If you are, no matter what your age, it’s time to go to the doctor and deal with the issue. But if Grandma is taking these drugs every day, it might be time to ask her about it. After all, a sore stomach is a lot better than an impaired mind.

(Via Indiana University)