Confirmed: antidepressants and other drugs cause dementia
The largest and most detailed study of its kind has just confirmed that a group of chemical drugs known as anticholinergics, which include antidepressants, antispasmodics, Parkinson’s drugs and bladder control medications, among others, may be directly linked to the development of dementia.
The study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, found that long-term use of these drugs is strongly linked to the onset of dementia, sometimes many years later.
The devastating effects of dementia
The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that dementia is a progressive condition caused by one of several brain illnesses that affect thinking, memory, behavior and the ability to cope with normal everyday activities. Over 47 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with dementia, and that number is expected to rise to over 75 million by 2030, and to triple by 2050.
Dementia is a devastating diagnosis for both the patients and their caregivers. In many countries, sufferers are stigmatized, and patients and their families are damaged psychologically, emotionally and economically.
Dementia costs the planet around $818 billion each year, and that figure is set to keep escalating.
Big Pharma at it again
For their study, the East Anglia researchers conducted a sophisticated analysis of over 300,000 medical records which included prescriptions for various medications, including Paxil, Elavil, Zyprexa and Seroquel – antidepressant and bipolar medications. Other drugs which proved to be problematic were medications used for bladder conditions and Parkinson’s disease.
“We analyzed people who developed dementia and people who didn’t develop dementia,” explained Professor Chris Cox, one of the study’s authors. “So our studies for the first time had indicated a strong association between taking certain anticholinergic drugs and the risk of getting dementia.”
Acetylcholine is a substance produced by the body that functions as a neurotransmitter. It acts on nerve cells to deliver chemical messages to the brain. By doing so, acetylcholine can regulate certain biological functions either by speeding them up or slowing them down. … The cells involved in the contraction of these muscles have nerve receptors. Those receptive to acetylcholine are considered cholinergic.
When faced with abnormal muscle function, there are drugs that can block acetylcholine by binding to the cholinergic receptors. Without the means to deliver the chemical messages, the contractions can be stopped and the symptoms relieved.
Anticholinergics carry multiple side effects since they indiscriminately interfere with receptors related to muscle contractions, including those involved in learning, memory and sensation. Side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Sore throat
- Absence of sweating
- Elevated body temperature
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred or double vision
- Accelerated heart rate
- Urinary incontinence
- Lack of coordination
- Bowel leakage
- Problems with memory
- Lack of coherence
- Difficulty concentrating
- A tendency to startle easily
- And, as has now been confirmed by science, dementia
There certainly seem to be more reasons not to take these types of medications than to take them.
Dr. Barbara Sommer, an expert on anticholinergics and a geriatric psychiatrist at Stanford Medical Center, cautions patients to review all their chronic medications and discuss them with their doctors.
“Take them to your doctors and go over each medication one by one asking how anticholinergic it is, if at all,” she suggested.