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Dementia due to antidepressants and bladder medications


The intake of so-called anticholinergics obviously increases the risk of dementia. This group of medicines includes some antidepressants and agents prescribed for incontinence and Parkinson’s. Although they have long since stopped, these drugs can contribute to the development of dementia after 15 to 20 years, as a study of April 2018 revealed. Doctors should therefore weigh exactly when prescribing these medicines, if these are necessary and if there could not be even more compatible alternatives.

Certain medications increase the risk of dementia

Anticholinergics are drugs that block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine – an important messenger in the nervous system. Some antidepressants belong in this group of drugs, eg. As amitriptyline, dosulepin and paroxetine. Bladder medications such as tolterodine and solifenacin and the Parkinson’s drug procyclidine are also anticholinergics.

It has long been recognized that these agents can affect cognitive abilities in the elderly even after short-term use. They can lead to states of confusion, sleep and memory disorders as well as hallucinations. We have already reported here: At home healthy, in hospital suddenly demented (under “Anticholinergics cause confusion”).

Therefore, according to the medical guidelines, anticholinergics should not be prescribed to frail people. But what if you take them as a younger person, for example in the form of antidepressants

Risk increased even 20 years after ingestion

In a study of the University of East Anglia (UK), on April 25, 2018 in the British Medical Journal was published, it has been shown that antidepressants from the group of anticholinergic drugs still 20 years after they have long since discontinued, can contribute to the development of dementia. Similar correlations were found for the above bladder and Parkinson medicaments.

The research team had reviewed data from 40,770 patients, all of them dementia suffered and were over 65 years old. They were compared with the data of more than 283,000 healthy people, none Signs of dementia exhibited.

The more anticholinergic drugs were taken, the sooner dementia developed

study leader Dr. George Savva said,

“More than 50 million people worldwide are affected by dementia. By 2015, it will probably be 132 million. The development of strategies for the prevention of dementia is therefore of global importance.

In our study, we found that persons with dementia in previous years had been prescribed one of the drugs above average. The risk of developing dementia also increased with the dose and duration of use of these agents.

Of course, we do not know if these drugs can actually cause dementia. They may have been prescribed for symptoms that were already the first signs of dementia. However, since the link exists even if the drugs were taken 15 to 20 years before the dementia diagnosis, it is unlikely that the reason for the prescription could have been early dementia symptoms. “

First depressed, then dementia?

With 350 million people around the world suffering from depression or bladder problems, antidepressants and bladder medications are the most widely used, 13 percent of men and 30 percent of women in the United States and the United Kingdom, including many anticholinergics. Could these drugs be one of the reasons for the rising numbers of dementia?

Fortunately, it was not possible to discover any links between dementia and anticholinergics that are caused by hay fever, travel sickness and abdominal cramps Dr. Doug Brown , Spokesman and research director of the Alzheimer’s Society.

Take anticholinergics only if there are no alternatives

Doctors should only prescribe anticholinergic drugs if there is no alternative for the particular patient. As a patient (or a relative of a patient), you should never take the prescribed medication without prior checking (read the package leaflet!). If you receive a prescription for the above medicines, alert your doctor to the study presented here and ask him for safer alternatives.

Proceed in the same way if you are already taking the medicines mentioned above. So do not stop suddenly but talk to your doctor about alternatives.

If you are taking any other medications, check to see if yours depressions or other complaints have not first developed as a side effect of any of these other medicines. Because depression can occur as a side effect in a number of drugs. For then you may not need any antidepressants, but a fundamentally different medication: Depression due to medication !


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