Anticholinergic drugs linked to dementia risk
Skilled nursing facilities: take note
As professionals working alongside seniors, we facecountless challenges related to dementia, Alzheimer’sdisease and memory care in general. It’s important toprovide patients and their families with sound advice andcompassionate consideration as they go through theprocess. Therefore, the latest news on dementia riskresonates strongly.
A link in the brain
According to a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine,popular antidepressants, antipsychotics, antiepileptic drugsand overactive bladder medications could be a leadingcause of dementia. Classified as ‘anticholinergic’ drugs,these prescriptions are not only overwhelminglycommon—they’re also used for prolonged periods of time.
Sweetening the pill
In wake of the study’s publication, healthcare professionalsreminded patients to heed their physicians’ advice andcontinue taking their regularly prescribed medications unlessotherwise told. Despite such compelling evidence, the linkbetween anticholinergic drug exposure and dementiaremains officially unconfirmed.
“The study is important because…[it] highlights which typesof anticholinergic drugs have the strongest associations,”says Carol Coupland, PhD, the article’s main author. “This isan observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawnabout whether these anticholinergic drugs cause dementia.”
As of 2019, the majority of patients taking these medicationsare suffering from depression, vertigo, motion sickness,nausea and overactive bladder. Of the 280,000+ participantsin the study, exactly 58,769 were diagnosed with dementia.Additionally, the study determined that antihistamines,muscle relaxants and antispasmodic gastro drugs did notaffect dementia risk.
Of course, more research is necessary to find a definite‘causal’ link between anticholinergic medications andcognitive decline. Those experienced in the medical field alsounderstand that, for some patients, the benefits mayoutweigh the risks. Ceasing a long-term prescriptionregimen could negatively affect their quality of life.
Until concrete conclusions are drawn, we encouragephysicians and staff to educate patients and their loved onesabout the latest industry findings. Collectively, we lookforward to a day when the threat of dementia is a distantmemory.