March 4, 2015

OTCs and dementiaWhen you have a mild allergic reaction or need help sleeping while you’re battling a cold, over-the-counter drugs have always been a convenient, relatively cheap go-to aid. However, new research will make you think twice before grabbing a bottle from your pharmacy’s shelf.

The AARP has issued a warning urging older adults to consider avoiding certain over-the-counter medications, which are now linked to an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study of 3,500 seniors showed that taking these medications regularly for a period of three years increases the risk, and that the danger increases even further when taken for longer periods of time and in higher doses.

The following medications are the ones that the AARP urges seniors to be cautious of, particularly if taking long-term and/or in high doses:

  • Antihistamines found in Benadryl
  • Sleep aids found in Tylenol PM
  • Certain antidepressants
  • Treatments for bladder control

“We know that these medications may have an effect on memory, and we always assumed that these effects were reversible. We didn’t think these medications were changing the brain permanently. Our study does suggest a link between the highest use and increased dementia risk,” noted Shelly Gray, professor of pharmacy at the University of Washington and the study’s author.

Since insomnia is so common in seniors, it’s recommended that non-drug therapies be investigated as alternatives to OTC sleeping medications. There are also alternative antihistamines, such as Claritin, and antidepressants, such as Prozac and Celexa. It’s stressed, however, that a physician be consulted before making any changes to medications or treatment plans.

Read more about the study’s findings here.

If your loved one needs assistance with medication management or reminders, contact the aging care experts at Continuum of St. Louis. Our caregivers and nurses can provide the care your loved one needs, while working with his or her physician to ensure all medications are taken correctly and on time. Contact us to learn more about our in-home care services.