Could your medications be affecting your memory?

Memory Loss is not a normal part of aging. However, with other compounding illnesses affecting us as we age, sometimes the treatments we seek might have unintended consequences.  Two of the most common offenders of medications that can affect memory are Benzodiazepines and Anticholinergics.


According to studies published by the National Institutes for Health, anti-anxiety drugs like Ativan, Restoril and Xanax are part of a class of medications called Benzodiazepines and have well-documented impact on memory disorders. Many individuals with chronic anxiety are able to live better, more productive lives due to these benzodiazepines, and no one should stop taking a medicine without speaking with their physician, but if you are taking these types of medications, it may be worthwhile to explore other options with your healthcare provider.


Some Parkinson’s drugs like Cogentin or Mellaril, and many drugs for an over-active bladder, such as Ditropan or Detrol, are part of a class of medications call anti-cholinergics.  These medications work by blocking the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine.  Acetylcholine works in the body to contract smooth muscles, slow the heart rate, dilate blood vessels, and increase bodily secretions.  Undesired side effects of anti-cholinergic medications include dry eyes or mouth, constipation and urinary retention.  More serious side-effects have been seen in patients’ cognitive abilities.   Memory disturbances, confusion and even delirium have been commonly noted in patients taking these medications.


Other medications that have documented effects on the memory are narcotic pain medications, some antidepressants, and some sleep aids.  If you are having trouble with your memory, see your physician first to rule out that a medication you’re taking isn’t the culprit. But remember, never stop taking a medication without first consulting your doctor.

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