taken for a variety of common medical conditions negatively affect
your brain, causing long-term cognitive impairment. These drugs,
called anticholinergics, block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter.
such common over-the-counter brands as Benadryl, Dramamine, Excedrin
PM, Nytol, Sominex, Tylenol PM, and Unisom.
drugs, such as Paxil, Detrol, Demerol and Elavil are available
only by prescription.
… conducted a six-year observational study, evaluating 1,652
Indianapolis area African-Americans over the age of 70 who had
normal cognitive function when the study began … ‘[T]aking one
anticholinergic significantly increased an individual’s risk of
developing mild cognitive impairment and taking two of these drugs
doubled this risk.’”
over-the-counter (OTC) drugs as safe because they don’t require
a prescription. Well nothing could be further from the truth.
many OTC drugs were previously carefully monitored prescription
drugs. Many people are not aware that while I was in college in
the 1970s, I worked as a full time pharmacy apprentice and helped
sell drugs to patients all day long.
the first non-salicylate prescription NSAID. Now it is a popular
OTC ibuprofen option. Similarly, anti-ulcer drugs like Tagamet,
Zantec, and Prilosec used to be carefully controlled. Now they
can all be easily purchased in a smaller “OTC strength” that nearly
doubles the number of pills required to equal the prescription
a drug is available without a prescription does not make it any
less dangerous. It is still a chemical, which in no way, shape,
or form treats the cause of the problem and can lead to complications
that can seriously injure, if not kill, you or someone you love.
So this is
clearly important information that can help you or someone you
love reduce your risk of dementia as you get older. Based on the
findings of this study, I would strongly recommend that seniors
in particular avoid all anticholinergic drugs, like Benadryl (generic
is diphenhydramine) which is a pervasive and commonly used in
virtually all of the OTC sleeping pills.
will continue studying the matter to see whether anticholinergic-induced
cognitive impairment can be reversed, but don’t hold your breath.
Avoidance is really the best solution.
drugs block a nervous system neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.
Those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease typically have a marked
shortage of acetylcholine.
drugs are available both over-the-counter and by prescription,
as medications used for a variety of symptoms can have this effect.
Examples include night-time pain relievers, antihistamines, and
other sleep aids, such as:
drugs with anticholinergic effects include certain antidepressants,
medications to control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain
of prescription meds in these categories include:
Note for Aspartame ‘Reactors’
Many of the
drugs listed here, as well as a long
list of additional ones, contain diphenhydramine.
As an important side note, you need to beware that chewable tablets
and rapidly disintegrating tablets that contain diphenhydramine
may be sweetened with aspartame.
If you have
the genetic disease phenylketonuria (PKU), you must be particularly
careful to avoid these types of drugs and all other types of aspartame-sweetened
foods and beverages in order to prevent mental retardation.
other people also suffer detrimental
health effects from aspartame, so you should know that this
is yet another potential source of this toxic sweetener.
Drugs Increases Dementia in the Elderly
written about the health dangers of many of these individual drugs.
Paxil, for example, is an
addictive antidepressant that is well known to increase the
of suicide in children and teens. It is also known to increase
of this study indicate that drugs with anticholinergic effects
may be yet another piece of the puzzle that might explain the
sharp rise in dementia and cognitive decline.
to the University of Michigan, dementia strikes about 50 percent
of people who reach the age of 85. Of those, about 60 percent
go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
this study, the researchers tracked the intake of anticholinergic
drugs and monitored the cognitive abilities of 1,652 African-American
seniors, aged 70 and older, for six years. All of the participants
had normal cognitive function at the outset of the study.
percent of the participants used a ‘possible anticholinergic,’
and 11 percent used a ‘definitive anticholinergic’ drug.
that those who took drugs classified as ‘definite anticholinergics’
had a four times higher incidence of cognitive impairment.
who were not carriers of the specific gene, APOE 4 allele,
the risk was over seven times higher. (The APOE 4 gene is known
to influence many neurological diseases, and is considered a high
risk factor for Alzheimer’s.)
of these drugs further increased the risk of cognitive impairment.
put, we have confirmed that anticholinergics, something as seemingly
benign as a medication for inability to get a good night’s sleep
or for motion sickness, can cause or worsen cognitive impairment,
specifically long-term mild cognitive impairment which involves
gradual memory loss.
a geriatrician I tell my Wishard Healthy Aging Brain Center
patients not to take these drugs and I encourage all older adults
to talk with their physicians about each and every one of the
medications they take,” said Malaz Boustani, M.D., IU School
of Medicine associate professor of medicine, Regenstrief Institute
investigator and IU Center for Aging Research center scientist.”
Reasons to Ditch the Sleep Meds
Americans filled more than 56
million prescriptions for sleeping pills and spent more than
million on over-the-counter sleep aids. But anticholinergic
sleep medications in particular may be causing far more harm than
good, especially long term, without providing any benefit
In a recent
article, CBC News reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
has had data for 15 years which shows that over-the-counter sleep
aids like Tylenol PM and Excedrin PM do not offer any significant
benefit to patients.
explanation for why the FDA took 15 years to evaluate the industry’s
research, but upon final analysis “the data suggests the combination
products are statistically better than a placebo but not by much,”
CBC News reported.
I guess it
can be chalked up as yet another vibrant example of how industry
research frequently amounts to little more than corporate wishes
and good PR fodder.
of sleeping pill studies from 2007 (financed by the National
Institutes of Health) found that sleeping pills like Ambien, Lunesta,
and Sonata reduced the average time to go to sleep by just under
13 minutes compared with fake pills – hardly a major
participants believed they had slept longer, by up to
one hour, when taking the pills.
actually be a sign of a condition called anterograde amnesia,
which causes trouble with forming memories. When people wake up
after taking sleeping pills, they may, in fact, simply forget
that they had been unable to sleep!
be far better off putting your money toward authentic solutions
to help you sleep than on sleeping pills, as it’s now clear that
they do next to nothing to help you sleep — in fact, they may
actually make it more difficult for you to get a good
night’s rest naturally — and may significantly increase your risk
Pills are NOT a Safe Solution for Sleepless Nights
that resorting to sleep medications is risky business, and that
these pills do not address the underlying reasons why you’re having
trouble sleeping in the first place.
to the long-term problems already discussed, there are other serious,
not to mention bizarre, risks involved.
these pills are notorious for being addictive, which means that
once you want to stop taking them, you’ll likely suffer withdrawal
symptoms that could be worse than your initial insomnia. Some,
such as Ambien, may also become less effective when taken for
longer than two weeks, which means you may find yourself needing
also make you want to eat
while you’re asleep – and I don’t mean sneaking down
to grab a piece of fruit. The sleep eating can include bizarre
foods such as buttered cigarettes, salt sandwiches, and raw bacon.
pills, and again Ambien in particular, are also known to increase
your risk of getting
into a traffic accident. Ambien actually ranks among the top
10 drugs found in the bloodstreams of impaired drivers, according
to some state toxicology labs.
elderly, using sleeping pills may increase the risk of nighttime
falls and injuries, and anyone who takes them may find they wake
up feeling drowsy if the effects of the drug have not worn off
better of finding safe and natural solutions that will actually
address the underlying causes of your sleepless nights instead
of just cover up the resulting symptoms.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep Without Dangerous Drugs
If you are
having trouble sleeping, please do not ignore the problem or simply
wait for it to go away. Quality sleep is just as important as
your need for food, water, and pure air – and there are very
simple methods to help you get yours.
my comprehensive sleep guide 33
Secret’s to a Good Night’s Sleep for my full set of recommendations,
but to start, make certain you are exercising regularly.
University Medical School study found that after 16 weeks in a
moderate-intensity exercise program, subjects were able to fall
asleep about 15 minutes earlier and sleep about 45 minutes longer
at night. However, don’t exercise too close to bedtime or it may
keep you awake.
another major reason why people have trouble sleeping, which is
why I suggest you start to wind down from your day at least an
hour before your bedtime (but preferably two or more).
such as journaling, meditating, sipping herbal tea, washing your
face, using the
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) or reading a book may soothe
your mind and help you unwind. Be sure your phone, email, and
television are all off during this time.
your sleeping environment is comfortable and conducive to sleep.
keeping the temperature cool, adding in some white noise if you
need it and making sure your room is pitch-black. If there is
even the tiniest bit of light in the room it can disrupt your
circadian rhythm and your pineal gland’s production of melatonin
and serotonin. For this reason, I highly recommend adding room-darkening
drapes to your bedroom, or if this is not possible wearing an
eye mask to block out any stray light.
following my 33
Secrets for a Good Night’s Sleep, the majority of people will
be able to fall asleep and stay asleep. However, for times when
sleep is especially difficult, these eight
natural remedies may also help and are far safer than sleeping
pills of any kind.