OTC Sleep, Pain, and Cold Meds Can Harm Elderly Brains

We have written about the dangers seen in the senior community with <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_drugs">drug mixing

. Now, HealthDay News reports that some popular over-the-counter (OTC) pain, cold, and sleep medications can hamper cognition, even causing delirium, in this group.

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According to a University of Indiana study, drugs such as Benadryl, Dramamine, Excedrin PM, Nytol, Sominex, Tylenol PM, and Unisom, were researched said HealthDay News. All these medications contain benadryl (diphenhydramine), which is, says HealthDay News, “a molecule that blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine,” which is necessary for “normal functioning of the central and peripheral nervous systems,” citing the team.

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“Before taking any medication prescribed by your doctor or an OTC medication, make sure there is no negative impact of this medication on your brain,” said lead researcher Dr. Malaz Boustani, quoted HealthDay News. Dr. Boustani and his team looked at anecdotal data and information from 27 prior studies for associations between anticholinergic effects and brain function, and found “a consistent link between” these effects and “cognitive impairment in older adults,” said HealthDay News. “Any OTC medication with the term ‘PM’ will indicate the presence of benadryl, which is bad for the brain,” Dr. Boustani concluded.

Because benadryl’s effects can accumulate, the more benadryl taken, the greater the cognitive risk, noted Dr. Boustani, who added, “There is a relationship with the number of medications and the burden on your aging brain,” quoted HealthDay News. Dr. Boustani also pointed out that those 65 and older can suffer from delirium—a decline in “attention-focus, perception, and cognition,” said HealthDay News or “acute brain failure,” said Dr. Boustani. The chances of death and institutionalization increase in the presence of delirium said Dr. Boustani.

Taking benadryl-containing drugs in excess of 90 days can triple the odds for Alzheimer’s disease, said Dr. Boustani, who noted that the senior community should seek drugs not containing benadryl, reported HealthDay News. “A lot of these medications are not recognized for these side effects. It’s time for the FDA to start taking this negative impact of these medications on the aging brain seriously,” Dr. Boustani argued. His report appears in May’s online issue of the Journal of Clinical Interventions in Aging.

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Dr. Clinton Wright, an associate professor of neurology at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami said, “These findings don’t surprise me at all. People tend not to think of their OTC medications as medication, but any medication that has anticholinergic effects can affect people’s cognition,” quoted HealthDay News.

Boustani said brain pharmacoepidemiology researchers at the university’s Center for Aging Research are studying 4,000 older adults and the effects of long-term use of medications with anticholinergic effects and severe cognitive impairment, said HealthDay News.

We reported late last year that the older population is more susceptible to the dangers of drug mixing, and USA Today in a prior piece reported that one in 25 older Americans—about 2.2 million people—are at risk for serious health problems because of dangerous drug combinations that include supplements and OTC medications in about half the cases. Science Daily previously reported that while the number of seniors taking medications has not risen in the past decade, the number of drugs—five or more—has risen significantly. Such combinations could be fatal, with older Americans accounting for over 175,000 yearly emergency department visits, said Reuters previously.

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