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These OTC Drugs Make Patients Vulnerable To Brain Damage, Dementia

Update Date: Apr 19, 2016 05:24 AM EDT
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People of advance years are being advised by a recent study from the Indiana University School of Medicine to keep away from taking anticholinergic drugs which are normally present in over-the-counter products.

Anticholinergic drugs are present in products such as  Benadryl, Demerol, Dimetapp, Dramamine, Paxil, Unisom and VESIcare which are prescribed for  hypertension, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The new study as explained by Dr. Shannon Risacher, assistant professor of radiology and imaging sciences had a registry of 451 participants with PET and MRI brain scans taken from a national study called the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative and the Indiana Memory and Ageing Study. Risacher and her colleagues came across the conclusion through brain imaging measurements that lower metabolism and a diminished brain size were found in the test subjects taking the anticholinergic drugs. The drug  produced an anticholinergic effect which impedes the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which activates the muscles, according to CNN.

Using brain imaging techniques, the researchers found lower metabolism and reduced brain sizes among study participants taking the drugs known to have an anticholinergic effect, meaning they block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter.

The group also induced the participants with memory and other forms of cognitive tests.

Results for participants taking the anticholinergic drugs performed were inferior compared to the other older participants with no anticholinergic drug present in their system. Both were assessed on their memory as well as verbal reasoning, planning, and problem-solving.

"These findings might give us clues to the biological basis for the cognitive problems associated with anticholinergic drugs, but additional studies are needed if we are to truly understand the mechanisms involved," Risacher pointed out in Science Daily.

In the past, studies have already associated the use of anticholinergic drugs to cognitive impairment and increased risk of dementia. 

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