The People's Perspective on Medicine

Dad’s Drugs Behind Mental Decline

Old man confused with many question marks

Q. Our father is taking medicine for an enlarged prostate, high blood pressure, heartburn, allergies, cough and postnasal drip. A partial list of his drugs include Avodart, doxazosin, hydroxyzine, ipratropium, Nexium, sertraline, promethazine plus codeine syrup and Tylenol PM.
Dad has developed depression and memory problems and we wonder if all these drugs could be causing his poor mental state.

A. Many of your father’s medications could be contributing to confusion and memory problems. Nighttime pain relievers like Tylenol PM contain diphenhydramine (Benadryl). This drug can affect the chemical acetylcholine, which is essential for normal brain function. Other medications that can alter this neurotransmitter include hydroxyzine, ipratropium, promethazine and codeine, as well as sertraline.

We are sending you our Guide to Drugs and Older People with lists of medications that impair memory and are dangerous for older people. Acid-suppressing drugs like Nexium, Prevacid (lansoprazole) and Prilosec (omeprazole) may make it hard to absorb vitamin B12. If this vitamin is lacking, cognitive function may be affected.

For a more in-depth overview of the mistakes that are often made when it comes to prescribing drugs to senior citizens we think you will find the information in our book, Top Screw-Ups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them, of great interest. Perhaps you could give a copy to his physician. It could change how your father is being treated.

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    About the Author
    Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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    Please read and study “Top Screw Ups Doctors Make.”
    You need to protect yourself and your family members from mistakes doctors make.
    I can’t imagine anyone taking all the meds your father is taking. All meds have side effects, good and bad, and mixed so many together the bad side effects are going to increase.
    I don’t know why seniors are so keen on taking medicine. I am 72 years old and the doctors keep trying to push expensive meds off on me that I know from research I don’t need. I have a good internist who tells me also I don’t need these dangerous drugs. I take a blood pressure med and Synthroid for hypothyroidism and that is all I am going to take. Just because you have the sniffles or a little depression (start thinking of something you like, not dwelling on things you don’t like) stretch several times a day and get up and move! Don’t let the doctors and their pills and the rocking chair get you!

    * Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^