In a recent study, a variety of commonly used antidepressants and incontinence prescriptions have been found to increase the risk of dementia in patients. Many researchers even claim that the connection between these two medications and dementia is still prevalent even if the medication was taken 20 years before the diagnosis was made. This startling discovery was made in a study conducted by researchers from the United States, Britain, and Ireland.
A Substantial Increase In Dementia Risk
In this extensive study, researchers looked at the 27 million prescriptions that were given to the 40,770 participants (that were over the age of 65) who were previously diagnosed with dementia between April 2006 and July 2015 (source). After carefully collecting and examining this data, the researchers compared their results with 283,933 elderly adults who didn’t have dementia. From that comparison, they found that there was a 30% increase in the risk of developing dementia after taking the prescribed medicine.
The Effects of Anticholinergics and Antidepressants
However, there was a drug that stood out the most amongst the rest: anticholinergics. Anticholinergics are prescribed to those for a variety of diseases such as depression, gastrointestinal disorders, urinary incontinence, allergies, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy. Anticholinergics work to block acetylcholine–a nervous system neurotransmitter–and have been known to contribute to various cognitive impairments.
Also found in their study, 35% of participants with dementia and 30% of participants without dementia were found to have at least one prescription that contained anticholinergics. Additionally, researchers found noticed another link to dementia: the consistent exposure to antidepressant, urological, and antiparkinson drugs. In addition to this finding, researchers noted that participants noticed signs of dementia at least 15 to 20 years before the actual diagnosis. Even more startling, at the start of drug treatment for depression, only 12% of patients developed dementia; however, during drug treatment, that percentage increased to 20%.
With these findings, many researchers and doctors are recommending for medical providers to avoid prescribing any medications that might contain anticholinergics.This includes Dr. Ian Maidment, a senior lecturer in clinical pharmacy at Aston University.
Dr. Chris Fox, a professor of clinical psychiatry at UEA’s Norwich Medical School explains, “We don’t know exactly how anticholinergics might cause dementia. Further research is needed to understand possible reasons for this link. In the meantime, I strongly advise patients with any concerns to continue taking their medicines until they have consulted their doctor or pharmacist.”
Although the relationship between dementia and anticholinergics haven’t been clearly defined, researchers are diligently working to discover it’s exact link. In the meantime, it’s pertinent for patients to pay close attention to the contents of the depression or urinary incontinence medications.