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Amitriptyline and Imodium Lead to Brain Fog and Poor Name Recall

Brain fog is a symptom that could be caused by lack of sleep or something more serious. Anticholinergic drugs can cause both confusion and brain fog.

Q. I am in my 50s and don’t consider myself a senior citizen, but my memory has been getting worse and worse. I take amitriptyline and oxybutynin for a urinary problem, along with Metamucil and Imodium for irritable bowel syndrome.

My name recall is poor and I sometimes feel like brain fog interferes with my ability to think clearly. I think I read in your column that some of these drugs could cause mental confusion. Please provide some perspective.

A. Anticholinergic drugs interfere with the brain’s ability to react normally to the neurochemical acetylcholine. Classic symptoms of such medications include dry mouth, eyes and nose, constipation, urinary retention, dizziness, drowsiness, disorientation and memory problems. You are taking only one drug without anticholinergic activity: psyllium (Metamucil). All the rest could be affecting your ability to think clearly.

You don’t have to be Over 65 to Experience Brain Fog:

Even though you are not a senior citizen you could be experiencing anticholinergic drug side effects. Many health professionals do not realize how many drugs have this action. While one medication by itself might not cause mental confusion or memory problems, adding two or three different anticholinergic drugs together can lead to brain fog.

Many people have asked us where they can find a list of anticholinergic drugs so we prepared this article with a link to a radio show we did on this topic. You will be surprised to discover that even over-the-counter drugs like Imodium or Tylenol PM contain ingredients that have anticholinergic activity.

We are sending you our guide to Drugs and Older People with a printed list of anticholinergic medications that could impact cognitive function. It also contains another list of drugs that should rarely, if ever, be prescribed to older people. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (71 cents), self-addressed envelope:

Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. O-85

P. O. Box 52027

Durham, NC 27717-2027.

It can also be downloaded for $2 from the website: PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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