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Taking certain medications may increase the risk of dementia

That’s what a new study says: taken for several years, drugs containing an anticholinergic agent could develop dementia faster.

The hypothesis is not new, concerning the effects of this anticholinergic agent. This substance serves to reduce the effects of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter) as a neuromediator in the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. It is present in many medicines to treat depression, epilepsy or incontinence. But a new study published in the very serious medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine is far more advanced in terms of time, the number of participants and drug analysis than any other studies on the subject.

Which drugs are concerned?

Among the drugs concerned by this substance are clozapine, used in the treatment of serious personality disorders, Enablex for overactive bladders, scopolamine recommended in case of nausea, ipratropium (a bronchodilator), tizanidine (a muscle relaxant) and the Benadryl antihistamine for allergies or an antidepressant such as Paxil. According to the study, it is older people who are likely to be prescribed these drugs, simply because they are quick to develop more health concerns.

How was the study done?

The research was conducted by Carol Coupland, a professor of medical statistics at the University of Nottingham (England). With his colleagues, they studied the effects of drugs containing the anticholinergic agent prescribed to 285,000 people from 55 years. About 59,000 had been diagnosed with some form of dementia. The database used comes from the medical records of more than 1,500 general practitioners in England.

The researchers looked at the medical records of patients diagnosed with dementia and examined medications prescribed by physicians one to eleven years before their diagnosis. Scientists also took into account external causes such as alcohol, smoking, BMI or the use of other drugs.

What are the results?

Scientists found that the risk of dementia was increased by 50% in people who used a high dose of the anticholinergic drug every day for 3 to 10 years. The risks were higher in people taking antidepressants and overactive bladder medications.

According to the UN, there are 50 million people with dementia in the world and nearly 10 million new cases are discovered every year. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and is the cause of 60-70% of cases.

Brady Roberts

I am a full-time med student and part-time contributor for News Today World, helping to conduct research and write stories covering what's happening in the industry.

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