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Common Depression and Parkinson’s Drugs Increase Risk of Dementia

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

With up to 50 percent of Americans age 65 and older taking at least one anticholinergic medication, AARP is warning people that a research team has found that taking these drugs may increase your risk of dementia by up to 30 percent — up to 20 years after taking them.

The study involved looking at records of more than 40,770 patients diagnosed with dementia; researchers found that those taking antidepressants, urological medications and drugs for Parkinson’s disease were affected. Anticholinergics used for gastrointestinal issues, cardiovascular issues and asthma were not in the risk pool.

Previous studies have shown that drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, may increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain relievers.

Although many young people take some of these drugs — an issue all on its own — this is especially concerning for seniors because they are frequently prescribed antipsychotic drugs to control dementia-related behavior. In other words, the drugs they’re taking to stop dementia symptoms may actually be causing the disease they’re trying to fight!

Add to that the fact that it’s not uncommon for physicians to prescribe antipsychotic drugs to individuals in nursing home facilities, even when there is no diagnosis of schizophrenia or other serious mental illness for which these drugs are intended, and it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

If you can wrap your head around that for just a moment, and remember that every age group is at risk for being diagnosed with a condition they may not actually have — subsequently being prescribed medications they do not need — this becomes a problem of immeasurable dimensions.

It’s a problem that’s not gone unnoticed, however, and it’s sparked a movement you may not have heard about, called “deprescribing.” This is a process of systematically discontinuing medications that either are duplicates of other medications the patient is already taking, or are unnecessary for care. The idea originally began in Canada and Australia, but is growing in the U.S., with the hope of reducing the number of drugs unnecessarily prescribed to seniors.

This is a movement you may want to join yourself, if you or a loved one are taking drugs like this. You can begin by speaking with your doctor about deprescribing and ask about making lifestyle choices, instead, that can address the issues the drugs you’re taking purport to “cure.” Consider alternative pain treatments that don't require medication and seek out a diet filled with organically grown, nongenetically modified whole foods. For more information on how to do this, see my previous article, “Depression Not Caused by Chemical Imbalance.”

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