SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — New research is raising important questions as to whether certain widely-prescribed drugs may be linked to dementia.
Globally, 50 million people are living with dementia, and it’s predicted to increase around the world to 132 million by 2050.
Doctors and public health experts realize that countries need to develop preventive health policies to reduce the neurodegenerative condition.
One strategy: to swap out certain medications or have doctors think twice before prescribing them. These medicines include certain antidepressants, bipolar medications, antispasmodics taken for bladder control, as well as some Parkinson’s drugs.
The drugs in question are called known as anticholinergics. They block a specific neurotransmitter called acetylcholine in the central and peripheral nervous systems.
…The British team found the long-term use of these drugs is linked to dementia, even when the medications are taken up to 20 years before a diagnosis.
The drugs include antidepressants such as Paxil and Elavil, and medications used for bipolar disorder including Zyprexa and Seroquel.
The research also found an associated risk with medications used for bladder conditions, as well as Parkinson’s disease.
…While this new research found no risk with popular over-the-counter antihistamines and sleep aids, Sommer said she doesn’t think they’re off the hook. Previous research shows compelling evidence the long-term use of these drugs may be problematic.
Diphenhydramine is the active ingredient found in Benadryl and other over-the-counter sleep aids. Sommer explained how drugs that contain diphenhydramine get into the brain and sit there for a little while.
“I just think it would be better to use another medication if possible,” she advised.
Patients should not to stop any medication without first talking to their doctor. “Some may have withdrawal symptoms or other adverse effects,” cautioned Fox.