Medications That Cause Dementia Symptoms
Several types of medications cause dementia symptoms such as memory loss. The increased incidence of dementia in the aging population makes this condition a major public health issue. Amongst the known causes of dementia, drug induced dementia is under-considered and studied. The elderly population is typically more at risk for developing dementia from medication use. Kidney and liver dysfunction have been suggested as reasons for the increased risk of medication-induced dementia in the elderly.
Below is a list of drug classes that are associated with cognitive impairment and dementia.
Anticholinergic medications are the most commonly known medications to cause dementia. Examples of anticholinergic drugs include first generation antihistamines (diphenhydramine, chlorpheniramine), and antimuscarinic drugs such as atropine (Atreza), tolterodine (Detrol), and oxybutynin (Ditropan). In one study 4128 women and 2784 men from three French cities were evaluated for cognitive performance, dementia and anticholinergic use at baseline and very 2 and 4 years. The study found that women who used anticholinergic drugs showed a greater decline in verbal fluency scores and global cognitive functioning than women who did not use anticholinergic drugs. Men who used anticholinergic drugs had a greater decline in visual memory and some decline in executive function. Discontinuing the use of anticholinergic drugs reduced the risk of dementia.
Benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium, Ativan, Xanax) are fat soluble and easily pass through cell membranes. They accumulate in fat tissue and remain in the body for a long time. Benzodiazepines are used for treating insomnia, anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, seizures, and several other conditions. They have an extensive duration of action in the body, and the elderly have increased sensitivity to their side effects. Benzodiazepines have been known to cause symptoms of dementia. In 2012, a study conducted in more than 1,000 elderly French people who had taken benzodiazepines showed that 50% of the participants experience an increased risk of dementia within 15 years of starting their medication compared to the control group who had never taken benzodiazepines.