Having trouble concentrating or remembering important things? It may not be early Alzheimer’s disease, but any number of common drugs used to treat insomnia, anxiety, allergies, or itching, new research suggests.
University of Montreal researchers who analyzed 162 studies on the side effects of typically used over-the-counter and prescription medications found many can have a negative impact on memory and attention in seniors.
The analysis — conducted by an international team of scientists led by Dr. Cara Tannenbaum, a Montreal geriatrics and medication specialist — found that 18 percent of 9 in 10 seniors over the age of 65 who take at least one prescription medication complain of memory problems and have mild cognitive deficits.
Among the researchers’ findings:
• Benzodiazepines, which are often used to treat anxiety and insomnia, consistently lead to impairments in memory and concentration. The higher the doses, the more likely it was for seniors to have problems.
• People taking antihistamines and tricyclic antidepressants showed deficits in attention and information processing, and should be avoided by seniors.
"Seniors can play an important role in reducing the risks associated with these medications. Patients need this information so that they are more comfortable talking to their doctors and pharmacists about safer pharmacological or non-pharmacological treatment options," Tannenbaum said.
"Despite the known risks, it may be better for some patients to continue their medication instead of having to live with intolerable symptoms. Each individual has a right to make an informed choice based on preference and a thorough understanding of the effects the medications may have on their memory and function."