Common Drugs like Benadryl Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia

Benadryl, that over-the-counter antihistamine used by so many during allergy season and as a sleep aid because of its welcome side effect of drowsiness, has been shown to increase significantly the risk of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia in older people who take it daily for three years.

The results of the large, rigorous study published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine, also identifies other medications with anticholinergic effects that showed similar results:
* tricyclic antidepressants like doxepin (Sinequan)

* first-generation antihistamines like chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton)

* antimuscarinics for bladder control like oxybutynin (Ditropan).

Other SSRI anti-depressants such as Prozac and Celexa and second-generation antihistamines such as loratadine (Claritin) were not linked with increasing the risk of dementia.

The seven-year University of Washington study of 3,500 seniors is the first to link more risk for developing dementia with taking higher doses of the anticholinergic drugs or for a longer time.

Some drugs other than those included in the study also have an anticholinergic effect, depending on the dose. These include Ativan, Sominex, Xanax, Valium and others.

“Older adults should be aware that many medications — including some available without a prescription, such as over-the-counter sleep aids — have strong anticholinergic effects,” advised researcher Shelley Gray.