There are a lot of comedians that have taken on Big Pharma, but few did it as effectively as the late Robin Williams. In one of his stand-up comedy routines, he said, "These new drugs have side effects that go on for (expletive) days, like 'tendency to grow another head.'" As it turns out, he wasn't too far off. There's growing research that says many of the drugs people take today are definitely affecting their head.
According to this new study, people with hay fever and insomnia could be at a higher risk for dementia. That's because over-the-counter hay fever pills and sleeping tablets increase the risk of Alzheimer's. But these aren't the only drugs that increase your risk. Drugs for depression and bladder control also caused dementia.
The list of drugs that cause dementia and Alzheimer's could be quite long. Any drug that has an "anticholinergic" effect would be included. This effect blocks a chemical transmitter in your brain. People with Alzheimer's lack this transmitter. So blocking it brings on Alzheimer's-like symptoms.
In this study, the researchers tracked the health of 3,434 people over the age of 65 for seven years. They paid particularly close attention to their use of anticholinergic drugs. During those seven years, 637 of the participants developed Alzheimer's and 160 suffered other forms of dementia.
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The researchers found a direct link to the drugs. And it was dose dependent. Those people who took higher doses had a 54% higher risk of dementia than those who didn't take any drugs. This is a big problem, since many of these drugs are sold over-the-counter. People can take large doses of the drugs, not realizing what they're doing to their brain.
Drugs always have an acute effect and a chronic effect. The acute effect is what we see happening in the short term (12 months or less). Unfortunately, most studies submitted to the FDA are short-term studies. The danger usually comes when you take a drug for longer than a year. This is when the chronic (more permanent) side effects start to take hold.
In this study, for example, people who took at least 10 mg a day of the antidepressant doxepin, 4 mg a day of the antihistamine diphenhydramine, or 5 mg a day of oxybutynin for more than three years had an increased risk for cognitive damage. It took time for the drugs to do harm.
If you're taking drugs for any reason, make sure you understand the long-term risks. This includes over-the-counter drugs.
It's also important to understand that you don't have to suffer from drug side effects or the conditions for which you're taking the drugs. There are almost always nutrients you can use instead that will treat the conditions — and none of them will cause you to "grow another head." I've given you many alternatives to antidepressants in previous Nutrient Insiders. Natural antihistamines, such as stinging nettle, quercetin, and bromelain, can help treat allergies. And the nutrients found in Pure Sleep can help treat your insomnia without causing damage to your mind.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.