Many times when a problem arises either with our own health, body and mental or cognitive functions (knock on wood) we go to see a physician. Whatever the problem may be, most times people are prescribed a medication. Some synthetic, man-made pill that is developed to cover or eradicate certain symptoms but bound to contain some adverse side effects. Now there are many theories for why this is the case, such as big pharmaceuticals wanting to keep pumping out pills and products to turn a profit or because recommending an all natural, whole food based diet is not profitable for physicians and the pharmaceutical industry.
But sometimes the most ‘harmless’ pill can contain some strange side effects. Some of these include hair loss, loss of appetite or insomnia.
Here are 12 medications that can have a deleterious effect on your memory. Please note that this is based on a handful of experiences reported by people who have used these medications. For any health concern you may have about your own medications, you should always contact your physician and ask him about it. Don’t take the advice on this list to heart; it might put your health at risk! Please proceed with caution and only trust a medical professional when it comes to your medications (present or future).
1. Sleeping pills do not generally improve the quality of one’s sleep since it induces a state similar to that of being drunk or in a coma. Some people have reported that it almost always results in memory loss. People have felt so drowsy prior to falling asleep that they have very little recollection of those previous events.
According to Marc Leavey, who is a doctor of internal medicine at MD Mercy Hospital in Baltimore he says that regular use of sleeping pills can build up a tolerance so that an individual requires a high dose of sleeping pills in order to fall asleep. He said: ‘if you have a short-term sleep disorder — a need to re-establish normal sleep patterns — that’s a clear reason to use these medications. You can have problems when you use them longer than 7 to 10 days.’ He went on to say that a high enough dose of sleeping pills can lead to depressed breathing which can ultimately lead to death.
2. Statins are drugs that regulate cholesterol levels. They play a huge and, in some cases, damaging role in the function of the brain. These results occur because a quarter the brain is composed of cholesterol which plays a key role in thinking, learning, and memory. By reducing or playing with these cholesterol levels, it can create an adverse effect on those three aspects; thinking, learning and memory.
According to Mayo Clinic, statins can cause muscle pain and in some cases even muscle damage. Furthermore, statins have been shown to occasionally increase the level of enzymes in the liver which then causes inflammation.
3. Drugs which have an ‘anti-’ before their name can have adverse effects on one’s memory. Medication such as antibiotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, antipsychotics, and anti-spasmodic all have an effect on a neurotransmitter in the brain. In a Harvard Health Publishing article, Daniel Pendick, who is the former executive editor of Harvard Men’s Health Watch, wrote: ‘tranquilizers, antidepressants, some blood pressure drugs, and other medications can affect memory, usually by causing sedation or confusion. That can make it difficult to pay close attention to new things.’
The neurotransmitter that is affected is called acetylcholine, which plays a key role in memory and learning. Low levels of acetylcholine can cause dementia, delirium, blurred vision, mental confusion, hallucinations and of course memory loss.
4. Benzodiazepines are drugs that help deal with anxiety. These drugs are usually administered against anxiety disorders, agitation, muscle spasms and delirium. But these drugs also suppress certain areas of the brain that deal with the transferal of data from short-term to long-term. These drugs are used by anesthesiologists for this particular reason.
According to mind.org.uk, benzodiazepines can cause memory problems. ‘Benzodiazepines are associated with an inability to form new memories. Due to this, it is usually recommended that they should not be used for sleep unless you are sure of not being disturbed before you have had a full night’s sleep (seven to eight hours).’ Further, according to the same article, use of this type of drug over an extended period of time has been shown to create problems concentration, loss of confidence, irritability and suicidal or depressive thoughts.
Medical experts recommend using these drugs for short periods of time only and not for an extended duration.
5. Antidepressant drugs or tricyclic antidepressants are designed not only for depression but also for eating disorders, chronic pain and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD.)
But according to WebMD, numerous prescription and over-the-counter medications have been shown to interfere with memory. ‘A number of prescription and over-the-counter medications can interfere with or cause loss of memory. Possible culprits include: antidepressants, antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, muscle relaxants, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and pain medications given after surgery.’
6. Hypertension drugs or beta-blockers are designed to help slow your heart rate and also to lower blood pressure. This, in turn, creates the adverse side effect of ‘blocking’ or negating crucial chemicals like epinephrine and norepinephrine which can cause memory loss.
According to Dr. Armon B. Neel Jr. who wrote an article for AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), he said: ‘beta-blockers are thought to cause memory problems by interfering with (“blocking”) the action of key chemical messengers in the brain, including norepinephrine and epinephrine.’
7. Anti-seizure drugs. Drugs that not only help to reduce or totally eliminate the onset of seizures but they also deal with bipolar disorder, mood disorders, mania and nerve pain. These drugs are designed to work through the ‘dampening’ of signals released by the Central Nervous System (CNS.) Any drug that alters that flow of signals can cause memory loss.
Dr. Armon said: ‘anti-convulsants are believed to limit seizures by dampening the flow of signals within the central nervous system (CNS). All drugs that depress signaling in the CNS can cause memory loss.’
8. Narcotic painkillers. As their name suggests, these are meant to be prescribed as a medication to deal with severe, mild or lingering pain. Although this drug is commonly misused, its effectiveness comes from its ability to stem the flow of pain signals from within the CNS.
Dr. Armon explained that narcotic painkillers, when used over an extended period of time, can cause an ‘interference’ in short term and long-term memory. He wrote: ‘these drugs work by stemming the flow of pain signals within the central nervous system and by blunting one’s emotional reaction to pain. Both these actions are mediated by chemical messengers that are also involved in many aspects of cognition.’
9. Drugs that are used to treat Parkinson’s disease, restless leg syndrome and some pituitary tumors act on the signal firings of the chemical dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that deals with motivation, feelings of pleasure, fine motor control, memory, and learning.
These drugs, also called dopamine agonists, have been explained by Dr. Armon to affect a chemical messenger known as dopamine which is incorporated in many brain functions such as the feeling of pleasure, motivation, fine motor control, learning and memory. He wrote: ‘major side effects can include memory loss, confusion, delusions, hallucinations, drowsiness and compulsive behaviors such as overeating and gambling.’
10. Incontinence drugs are used to deal with an overactive bladder. It is usually used to help soften or eliminate the feeling of a sudden and strong urge to urinate.
Dr. Armon explained how acetylcholine is a chemical in the brain that deals with a wide assortment of bodily functions. ‘In the bladder, anticholinergics prevent involuntary contractions of the muscles that control urine flow. In the brain, they inhibit activity in the memory and learning centers. The risk of memory loss is heightened when the drugs are taken for more than a short time or used with other anticholinergic drugs.’
11. Antihistamines of the first generation are used to relieve or prevent symptoms of an allergy or a cold. They are commonly prescribed and many people have used them before and may have even experienced some of these side effects before!
Once again, Dr. Armon explains how these drugs play a role in affecting acetylcholine. ‘These medications (prescription and over-the-counter) inhibit the action of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger that mediates a wide range of functions in the body. In the brain, they inhibit activity in the memory and learning centers, which can lead to memory loss. which affects brain function that includes memory and learning.’
12. Some over the counter drugs that can cause memory loss include Advil and Benadryl. According to an article written by Diana Ng of the National Center for Health Research, the medications to watch out for include: Tylenol PM, Simply Sleep, ZzzQuil, and Unisom. Diana wrote for the center4research.org, ‘We’ve known since 2012 that people who regularly take Benadryl or other sleeping pills to fall and stay asleep are more likely to get cancer and tend to die earlier than people who don’t take sleep medication. A 2015 study, however, found that taking Benadryl also seems to increase a person’s chances of developing dementia.’ She went on to say: ‘The researchers followed the study participants for over 7 years on average to see who developed dementia. Those who had the highest exposure to these drugs (equivalent to taking an anticholinergic every day for more than three years), had a 54% higher risk for dementia compared to those who did not use anticholinergics at all.’