You’d think some of the most popular allergy and insomnia drugs on the market would be safe, but a new study outlines some frightening health risks. The latest evidence is the drugs linked to dementia now include common anticholinergic drugs. This class of drugs includes popular medications like Benadryl, Dramamine, Advil PM and Unison, among others. The antidepressant drug Paxil and the pain drug Demerol also have anticholinergic effects.
This isn’t the first time researchers found a connection between anticholinergic drugs and cognitive decline. This latest study published in JAMA Neurology is unique, though. That’s because Indiana University School of Medicine researchers actually used brain imaging to detect how anticholinergic drugs impact the brain. Using MRI and PET scan imaging, researchers showed how people taking anticholinergic drugs experienced lower brain metabolism and higher brain atrophy; they also scored lower on memory tests.
In 2015, University of Washington scientists also found the chronic use of certain anticholinergic sleep aids and hay fever meds in the increased a person’s risk of dementia. The study only found the association for people taking these drugs for 3 or more years. (More research is needed to find out if continuous or intermittent use over that time frame leads to the increased risk of dementia.)
Other drugs with anticholinergic action include some medications containing tiotropium used to treat respiratory ailments like COPD and asthma (Atrovent) (Spiriva). Other anticholinergic drugs include Paxil (for treating depression) and solifenacin-containing drugs like Vesicare for overactive bladder problems.
Therefore, next time your doctor prescribes you drugs which have anticholinergic effects, you should ask for another opinion before you quit their use. Yet, it is also possible to avoid these medications and try some natural, alternative solutions to your allergies or insomnia issues, such as:
Close-up of alarm clock on night table
Try valerian root as a sleep remedy with a low risk of side effects. Set your temperature for between 60 and 70 degrees F. This lowers your body’s internal thermometer, initiating sleepiness. Eat melatonin-rich, sleep-incuding foods like bananas, cherries, ginger or radishes as a bedtime snack.
Learn to use essential oils for allergies. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology suggests peppermint oil acts as a relaxant and exhibits antispasmodic activity, inhibiting contractions that causes you to cough. It’s not recommended for children under 30 months.
If you have a ragweed allergy, avoid melons, bananas, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, echinacea and chamomile, as they can trigger an allergic response in your system.
Bone broth from chicken, beef or lamb helps to ease respiratory problems. It also helps to reduce inflammation in the body and boosts the immune system.
So, to sum up, you shouldn’t stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor, it’s worth a conversation to see if your medications include anticholinergic drugs linked to dementia. If they are, inquire about possible alternative options with fewer serious side effects, including natural remedies.