Over-the-counter drugs are usually considered safe– that’s why you don’t need a prescription, right? Unfortunately, some over-the-counter drugs may not be as safe as they seem. These drugs are classified as anticholinergic, which means that they block acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter in the nervous system. When this neurotransmitter is blocked, you’ll have trouble with the involuntary movement of smooth muscles in your lungs, urinary tract, digestive tract, and cardiovascular system.
JAMA Neurology published a new study where researchers used MRIs and PET scans to discover why participants who took anticholinergic drugs had poor memory, low brain metabolism, and higher brain atrophy. The results of the study concluded that these drugs can actually lead practitioners to misdiagnose cognitive decline, if not cause cognitive decline. I recommend avoiding long-term use of the following three drugs in order to keep your cognitive function safe from drug-induced cognitive decline.
1. Say No to Sleep Aids
While sleep aids may help you get a better night’s sleep, certain sleep aids like Advil PM and Unisom are anticholinergic, and people tend to use them long term. The CDC reports that almost 9 million American adults 20 years or older use prescription sleep aids. This number does not include the number of individuals who are using over-the-counter sleep aids, so it’s safe to assume that the reported number is much higher given that around 50-70 million Americans have trouble sleeping.
2. Alleviate Allergies Without Anticholinergic
Allergy season can definitely be brutal; however, if you’re taking allergy medication that contains diphenhydramine (like Benadryl) on a regular basis, you’re putting your nervous system and brain at risk.
There are other medications that don’t fall under this dangerous classification and won’t block your acetylcholine receptors, but I recommend finding other ways to reduce inflammation and control histamines so that allergies can’t interfere with your overall health.
3. Ditch the Dramamine
Dramamine, a drug that typically helps individuals conquer motion-sickness, contains dimenhydrinate as an active ingredient. And while most individuals don’t take Dramamine on a regular basis, people with Ménière’s disease or other equilibrium problems tend to take this drug far too frequently.
It’s true that this anticholinergic may help you get rid of that motion-induced nausea, but it is putting your brain at risk for far more serious complications like cognitive decline.
This list is pretty short and only gives a brief overview of over-the-counter medications that you should avoid, but it’s also important to note that there are common prescription drugs that are also anticholinergic. These include antidepressants, COPD and asthma medications, the pain medication Demerol, and drugs for overactive bladder issues and Parkinson’s disease. While this may seem discouraging, as you definitely shouldn’t kick your meds to the curb if unadvised by a doctor, many of these conditions can be managed with safer pharmaceutical options.
That being said, I recommend partnering with a functional medicine practitioner who can help you approach your condition from a new perspective.
If you’re looking for an Alzheimer’s Doctor in San Bernardino, come to Core Integrated Health of Inland Empire.
For example, at my clinic, we use cutting-edge testing to uncover your individual imbalances that are causing your condition and create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and unique chemistry. This will put you on the road toward optimal healing and give you the best shot at reclaiming your health.