A recent study links heavy use of anticholinergics with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Anticholinergics include sleep aids such as Tylenol PM, antihistamine drugs like Benadryl, and certain antidepressants.
The study included over 3400 participants age 65 and over. Nearly a quarter of the participants developed some form of dementia during the study’s seven year follow-up period, with 80% of those individuals being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The strongest correlation was found with those who had taken the drugs regularly for three years or more.
Dr. Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society, explains “More robust research is needed to understand what the potential dangers are, and if some drugs are more likely to have this effect than others.” He also encourages doctors and pharmacists to be more aware of this potential link and advises anyone with concerns to speak to their family doctor before stopping or starting the regular use of any medications.
Source: Gray S, Anderson M, Dublin S, et al. Cumulative use of strong anticholinergics and incident dementia: a prospective cohort study. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015 Mar; 175 (3): 401-407.