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Non-Prescription Medications Linked to Dementia


Walk into any drugstore and you’ll see shelves and shelves lined with medications. Among those medications are non-prescription sleep medications such as Benadryl.


Researchers have found a significant link between the high use of these medications and an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s.   The class of drugs called anticholinergic medications work by blocking the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the body and brain. Some of the side effects of this are constipation, drowsiness, inability to urinate, dry mouth and eyes, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.

“Older adults should be made aware that many medications- including some available without a prescription, such as over-the-counter sleep aids- have strong anticholinergic effects.” Says Shelly Gray, lead researcher of the study.

While the link between anticholinergic drugs and an increase in dementia has been observed before in other studies, this study was more rigorous and followed up with patients through seven years after the study to establish the strength of the findings. Researchers also accessed pharmacy records to correlate the use of non-prescription drugs in their data.

This is also the first study to demonstrate the dose-response effect. This means that more often the drug is taken and the more cumulative amount, the higher the risk is of developing dementia. Not only that, but the negative effects of taking the drugs can persist long after the person stops taking the medication.  The most commonly used medications for those patients that developed dementia were antidepressants, antihistamines, and antimuscarinics (for bladder control).

Researchers stress the importance of speaking with your primary care physician to find out how to reduce the dosages of any current medications. It’s important to do this as soon as possible since the negative effects from taking those drugs may already have set in.  Dr. Shapero has helped hundreds of people find natural and effective alternatives for better sleep and other problems.

SOURCE: Paddock, Catharine. “Over-the-counter sleep aids linked to dementia.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 14 Nov. 2015. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288546.php

Yours for Better Health, Dr. Shapero



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