Anticholinergic drugs which—as the name suggests—block the action of the neurotransmitter choline, have once again been linked to cognitive decline and dementia.
It’s been estimated that over half of folks over 65 are on at least one of these drugs.
We first began advising readers to beware of anticholinergics back in 2008.
This common class of drugs contains a wide variety of medications including drugs for…
Even the popular over-the-counter antihistamine Benadryl and the decongestant Dimetapp fall under the umbrella.
A 2008 analysis, first reported on at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, gave us an early glimpse into just how damaging anticholinergics can be.
Anticholinergic drugs linked to 50% faster rate of cognitive decline
Using the data gathered in the Religious Orders Study conducted at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, researchers uncovered a startling fact.
Folks who took anticholinergic drugs had a devastating 50 percent faster rate of cognitive decline than people who’d never taken them.
In 2011 UK researchers raised the alarm once again. A large study, which included data from over 13,000 volunteers over the age of 65, found the drugs impacted the brain and increased user’s risk of mental decline and death.
Cognitive problems can occur in as little as 60 days
A 2013 study found that drugs with a strong anticholinergic effect cause cognitive problems when taken for just 60 days. Those on weaker drugs aren’t in the clear either, it simply takes a bit longer to cause the impairment—90 days.
In 2015 we reported on a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine which, once again, tied long-term used of common anticholinergics—such as drugs for over-active bladder and tricyclic antidepressants to dementia.
The long-term study tracked the medication use of nearly 3,500 men and women over 65 for seven years. Researchers found that people who used anticholinergic drugs were significantly more likely to develop dementia than those who didn’t use them.
Dementia risk skyrockets after 3 years
And the effect was cumulative, meaning that the longer someone took them the higher their risk rose. In fact, dementia risk for folks who had been on them for three or more years skyrocketed to a shocking 54 percent higher risk than those taking the same dose for three months or less!
Now, a decade after we first learned of this devastating side effect researchers are once again warning that anticholinergics are associated with cognitive impairment and dementia. In fact, Indiana University researchers say older adults might want to avoid this class of drugs altogether.
Brain scans revealed lower metabolism and reduced brain sizes in anticholinergic drug users according to the study published in the journal JAMA Neurology.
If you want to check to see if you’re on one of these meds below is a partial list of some of the most common anticholinergics…
Generic Drug Name
Brand Drug Name
Bupropion Wellbutrin™, Zyban™
Cetirizine Zyrtec ™
Dimenhydrinate Dramamine™, others
Diphenhydramine Benadryl™, others
Doxylamine Unisom™, others
Hydrocortisone Cortef™, Cortaid™
Loperamide Immodium™, others
Metoprolol Lopressor™, Toprol™
Prednisone Deltasone™, Sterapred™
If you’re a senior and on a prescription anticholinergic drug make an appointment with your doctor to discuss getting off of it.
And if you’re over 60 and using over-the-counter anticholinergics you should take the IU researchers advice seriously and consider tossing them in the trash