“The strongest evidence yet” is the description quoted in an article in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)* about the relationship between anticholinergic drugs (antihistamines) and dementia (as in memory loss, Alzheimer’s, etc.).  This is astounding since the latest medical guidelines constructed by a 21-member team of medical experts call for steroids in your nose and daily antihistamines for life as the treatment of choice for sinus allergies!

Seniors are following their doctor’s advice with more than 20% of the older adult population taking antihistamines and anticholinergics daily for many conditions, including sinus allergy.  That is millions of Americans taking a chemical known to cause memory loss on a daily basis! When combined with all the other drugs that cause memory loss, is it any mystery why so many people are suffering from dementia?

Anticholinergics have become a way of life for seniors.  There are antihistamines, over-the-counter sleep aids like Benadryl, allergy medications like chlorpheniramine, overactive bladder drugs like oxybutynin and tolterodine, and even anti-depressants like doxepin and amitriptyline.  All, according to the “the strongest evidence yet,” can cause dementia and memory loss.

The Statistics Are Chilling Anticholinergics have plenty of side effects, including dry mouth, constipation, and urinary retention.  But the danger of memory loss from these drugs trumps all the rest.  The longer you take them and the higher the dose, the greater your odds of brain damage.  And more unfortunately, even at low dose but on a daily basis (like allergy medications and nasal sprays as recommended by medical experts for sinus allergy), the effects on the brain are as powerful as the high dose drugs. In fact, if you used an antihistamine nasal spray for three years, you would be in the highest risk category for dementia.  The statistics are chilling.

With over 10+ years of tracking older people using these drugs, fully 23.2% developed dementia.  Of these people 79.9% developed Alzheimer’s!   Calling this very credible data , researchers and pharmacists are recommending that all doctors and patients be educated about the risks of these drugs that are so often considered harmless.  I could not agree more.

*JAMA Internal Medicine (published online), Jan 26, 2015.

West, Bruce, D.C. "Allergy Drugs Cause Dementia." Health Alert 32.6 (2015): 4-5.


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