BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A recent study has found that common over-the-counter medicine used to treat pain, allergies or insomnia can lead to brain issues. In spite of the many potential side effects, most of us do not pay attention to them, especially when we seek something to ail us quickly.
The results of the study were published last Monday, and they have solid proof that PDFs (anticholinergic drugs) can lead to a high risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. This drug class is not particularly well-known, but most of you have surely heard of Dramamine, Demerol, Unisom, Benadryl, Dimetapp, Paxil or VESIcare. All of these are available over the counter and can easily be purchased for those with sleep disorders or chronic diseases like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), cardiovascular disease or hypertension.
This is the first study that examined the physical changed that lead to cognitive decline. By making use of brain imaging techniques, the team of researchers from the School of Medicine from the Indiana University discovered reduced brain sizes and a lower metabolism withing the participants that took anticholinergic drugs.
The research involved 451 individuals with the average age of 73 years. Out of these, sixty used to take at least one anticholinergic medication with a medium of high activity. In order to identify the psychological and physical changes that were linked to the reported effects, the researchers had to assesses the results of cognitive and memory tests, PET scans and MRI scans, to analyze the brain metabolism and structure.
According to the cognitive tests, people who were taking the common drugs had lower results on tests related to short-term memory and executive function, which includes planning, reasoning and problem-solving. Those who regularly take common drugs also presented lower glucose metabolism levels in the hippocampus and the overall brain. The hippocampus is the area of the brain linked to memory and usually early affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Lastly, the participants who used anticholinergic drugs had smaller ventricles and a smaller brain volume. Shannon Risacher, author of the study and professor of imaging and radiology sciences, has stated that
“These findings might give us clues to the biological basis for the cognitive problems associated with anticholinergic drugs, but additional studies are needed if we are to truly understand the mechanisms involved.”
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