Risk of dementia linked to certain medications

Dementia is caused when diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes, damage the brain. Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse. In most cases, there is no way to cure the diseases that cause dementia.

On June 24, 2019, the JAMA Internal Medicine published a study which found some common drugs could increase the risk of dementia or dementia-like symptoms by nearly 50%. According to the research, there is an increased chance of dementia in people 55 and older who take anticholinergic medications. The study, looked at more than 200,000 individuals in Britain who took a strong anticholinergic drug for three years and found a 49% increased risk of dementia.

Anticholinergics are drugs that block the action of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter, or a chemical messenger. It transfers signals between certain cells to affect how your body functions. Anticholinergics can treat a variety of conditions, including urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, and certain types of poisoning. They also include diphenhydramine (a common antihistamine, as found in Benadryl).

According to Robert H. Shmerling, MD, “[t]hese findings are intriguing but they aren’t definitive, and they don’t mean you should stop taking a medication because you’re concerned about developing dementia.” If you need long-term treatment for one of the relevant medical conditions, you should consider talking to your doctor about other medication options that are not in the anticholinergic class.

For more than 30 years, Attorney Lee A. Drizin has practiced in the areas of estate planning, probate, trusts, guardianship and real estate matters representing clients throughout the state of Nevada.

Drizin Law is providing this information for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. This information is based on general principles of Nevada law at the time it was created and you should be aware laws frequently change. Moreover, the laws affecting you may differ depending on the circumstances. You should consult with a qualified attorney in your own state or jurisdiction concerning your particular situation. Review of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.