The People's Perspective on Medicine

How to Prevent Dementia

Certain drugs, such as sleeping pills or anti-anxiety agents, can increase the possibility of developing dementia.
Female alzheimer’s dementia confusion

Q. I am interested in information about preventing dementia.

What drugs should someone avoid to prevent memory loss? Are there any drugs that might help? Please answer in the newspaper so my wife won’t know I am worried.

A. There are a surprising number of medications that appear to cause confusion and forgetfulness and may even increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Drugs That May Contribute to Confusion

Sleeping pills and benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drugs are worrisome in this regard. Anticholinergic medications such as those prescribed for overactive bladder or used over the counter to treat allergy symptoms or insomnia can affect cognitive function (JAMA Internal Medicine, March, 2015).

Anyone who is interested in learning more about this problem may want to read our Guide to Drugs and Older People, which has a list of medicines that can cause trouble.

A Promising Development

Exciting new research suggests that an epilepsy drug, levetiracetam, may offer hope for people with the first signs of memory loss (NeuroImage: Clinical, online, Feb. 21, 2015).  We will be watching for further research on this medication to see if the early promise holds up.

Rate this article
4.7- 34 ratings

Today's Newsletter Reading List

    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.” .
    Drugs and Older People

    Download this guide to drugs that are usually inappropriate for older people. Avoiding drug-induced forgetfulness and falls.

    Drugs and Older People
    Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

    We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.

    Showing 8 comments
    Add your comment

    There are several things that can cause brain fog, or forgetfulness, or dementia other than drug side affects and these are iron deficiency, vitamin B deficiencies (the two main ones) and some other deficiencies. I have done a lot of reading up on this, and I am pretty sure this is correct info. PLEASE investigate this for your loved one BEFORE you start taking a prescription drug. I was very surprised to read that many, many older people are iron deficient and this can cause lots of different problems, the main one of course is being very fatigued. I had lots of forgetfulness and brain fog and I found out I was extremely iron deficient when I tried to give blood. Iron was so low they said I coils not donate. When I started on iron pills the brain fog moments were greatly, greatly decreased within about 3 weeks

    I am also concerned about drugs causing dementia – can’t seem to find out if Gabapentin ( Neurontin) is an anticholinergic ?

    Some of the latest news regarding dementia I believe your readers would appreciate. Can’t easily cut and paste so here is the link about a study at Rush Medical Center involving
    nutrition and great results at this point….

    The supplement pill Curcumin with black pepper has been shown to help cognitive function including dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Like most supplements the benefits take a little time.

    Too bad common sleeping pills are part of the list of drugs leading to dementia because I need them in order to get a good night’s sleep. Without them I am MORE likely to have confusion and forgetfulness! So–to take or not to take?

    tricks to promote sleep stick with a routine bedtime-no tv in bedroom-I try-naming objects: furniture-school or office supplies-songs hits-warm milk-made with chamomile tea-warm covers-more pillows-wind down activities 1 hr before bed-take melatonin.

    I was 34, on a statin for 3 years, when I fell deathly ill, brain biopsy revealed a Mitochondrial Mutation most similar to Mitochondrial Encephalomyopathy with Lactic Acidosis and Stroke Like Episodes. I have been disabled since 2002, due to profound cognition problems, short term memory is Horrible, Dr Beatrice Golomb of the UCSD Statin Effects Study, which I was in, told me that “my use of lipitor was the likely causal contributor to the Mitochondrial Mutations as well as the Holes in my brain (Apoptosis), ” While I have had some very minor improvement over the past 12 years, I am still unable to work in any subtantial gainful employment. Kind of a bitter pill to swallow, for a former Critical Care RN of 12 years practice, and to a person who has been employed since I could have a peper route when I was 12 years old.

    Very helpful, i have always known that chemical medications can be a real problem

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