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Popular Pain Relievers May Prevent Senility

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Q. Are there any pharmaceuticals that prevent dementia? Alzheimer's disease runs in my family and I would do anything reasonable to avoid it. What about Aricept?

A. Evidence is accumulating that common pain relievers such as ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin may diminish the likelihood of dementia by almost 30 percent (British Medical Journal, July 19, 2003). Regular use of such non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) might provide protection by combating the inflammation that may contribute to Alzheimer's disease.

Even though some of these medicines are available over the counter, no one should undertake long-term treatment without medical supervision. Potentially serious side effects such as bleeding ulcers may result.

Aricept is prescribed for Alzheimer's patients to slow the progression of the disease. It has a number of side effects, and there are no data to suggest it can prevent dementia.

Q. I take Zoloft and have tried to stop taking it several times. Each time I stop I experience a very strange thing. Doctors, nurses and pharmacists dismiss me as a nut case, but I swear this is true. I get electrical shock-like sensations in my head and feel extremely dizzy.

I absolutely know this is associated with not taking Zoloft, because within two hours after I resume taking it these overpowering symptoms disappear completely.

I would like to get off this drug but have no idea how to do so.

A. Many readers have noted that if they suddenly stop antidepressants such as Paxil, Zoloft or Effexor they experience unpleasant symptoms. Dizziness, feeling faint or anxious, headache, diarrhea, insomnia or shock-like sensations have all been reported as part of this withdrawal syndrome.

We don't think you're crazy. Perhaps your health care providers haven't done their homework. The medical literature has numerous references to a discontinuation syndrome that corresponds to your situation.

Several decades ago many patients complained of somewhat similar side effects when they suddenly stopped anti-anxiety drugs like Ativan (lorazepam), Valium (diazepam) or Xanax (alprazolam). Initially these reports were discounted, but eventually withdrawal was recognized as a risk.

We are sending you our Guides to Antidepressant Pros and Cons and Psychological Side Effects for more information. Anyone who would like copies, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. MX-23, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. Slowly tapering the dose of Zoloft under medical supervision may be the answer.

Q. I have been troubled with chronic diarrhea. After years of consulting a gastroenterologist, he finally asked if I consumed anything containing sorbitol.

I checked and found that the calcium chewables I popped everyday contained sorbitol as a sweetener. I stopped immediately and my diarrhea ceased within 24 hours. Other people with diarrhea should look over their diets and medications to see if a sweetener is causing the trouble.

A. Sorbitol, maltitol and many other sweeteners are not absorbed well and can cause diarrhea as a result. These sugar substitutes show up in sugarless gum and candy as well as chewable supplements like yours.

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