Common prescription drugs linked to increased dementia risk

We wish it wasn’t the case but, unfortunately, memory loss is a hot topic. People have countless questions about brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. What really causes it? Will there ever be a cure? Are there any natural preventatives? How do my other medications that I’m taking affect my risk of such problems?

Many prescriptions have been linked to memory loss! We hope to answer these questions and more below. So, if you or a loved one is worried about or currently living with this problem, please keep reading…


How Common Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Most people associate Alzheimer’s with memory loss, one of first and most common symptoms of the disease. On average, the progressive (and currently) irreversible brain disorder starts affecting people after 60 years of age. [1] However, there are many factors that contribute to an individual’s experience such as their genes, diet, lifestyle habits, and more.

According to, there are 44 million people who have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, approximately 5,700,000 of whom are American. Health officials expect that number to rise to 16 million by 2050. And because it’s the sixth leading cause of death in America – the only one in the top 10 that cannot be cured, prevented, or slowed – it demands everyone’s attention. [1,2]


10 Early Warning Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

  • Memory loss
  • Inability to plan things or solve problems
  • Difficulty completing simple tasks
  • Getting confused about times, dates, and places
  • Inability to understand spatial relationships and visuals
  • New problems when it comes to speaking or writing
  • Forgetting where you put stuff and being unable to retrace steps
  • Increasingly poor judgement
  • Growing less and less social
  • Uncharacteristic changes in mood and personality

How About Dementia?

Not unlike Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, general dementia is also a progressive syndrome that impairs your cognitive function. That is, your ability to think, reason, remember, and behave properly (if at all). Many of the symptoms actually overlap with those of Alzheimer’s disease. [1]

Growing by 10 million new cases per year, there are around 50 million people worldwide currently living with dementia… According to the World Health Organization, that’s a figure that we expect to hit 82,000,000 by 2030 and 152,000,000. [4]

Although these numbers are alarming, there are numerous ways to decrease your risk of development Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia – naturally and otherwise. But the possibility of keeping the number of dementia cases to a minimum seems unlikely when so many people are on medications that can increase the likelihood of getting it.


Common Drugs Like Benadryl Linked to Increased Dementia Risk

In March 2015, researchers published a prospective cohort study in JAMA Internal Medicine called “Cumulative Use of Strong Anticholinergics and Incident Dementia.” The University of Washington and Seattle healthcare system, Group Health, conducted the long-term study which tracked 3,434 men and women who were aged 65 and up, and had no dementia when the study began. [5]

The team accessed every participant’s history of drug use for the previous decade, including both over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Over a 7-year timeline, they followed up with all the participants every two years, during which 797 participants developed dementia (637 of whom developed Alzheimer’s disease).

As researchers looked back on what those 797 individuals took, anticholinergic drugsbecame the main suspect. The most common anticholinergics participants used were tricyclic antidepressants, first-generation antihistamines, and bladder antimuscarinics. Compared to those who didn’t take anticholinergic drugs, people who did for as little as three years were 54% more likely to develop dementia.

What Are Anticholinergics?

Usually, these types of drugs are prescribed to treat problems including urinary incontinence, Parkinson’s disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Anticholinergic drugs’ main purpose is to block the actions and effects of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter which causes muscles to contract, activates pain responses and regulates endocrine and REM sleep functions. [6]

It’s just a natural fact of life – as we age, our bodies’ ability to produce acetylcholine decreases. [7] Since the brain actually contains many acetylcholine-producing cells, as Harvard editor Beverly Merz highlights, “blocking its effects can deliver a double whammy to older people.” [8]

If you want to keep your head clear and brain functioning as highly as possible, steering clear of anticholinergic drugs seems ideal. However, it is important to recognize that the long-term study revealed only a small portion of drugs was interfering with cognitive function. So, please discuss with your doctor if you’re thinking of getting off any prescribed medications.


Experiencing Memory Loss? It’s Not Necessarily Alzheimer’s

There are reversible dementias that, although worrisome, people can treat and even overcome. Some of these problems might surprise you: [9]

1) Delirium

Although this condition seems similar to dementia, the mental changes that occur in delirium happen within days in comparison to months or years. Another key distinction between these two problems is that with dementia, you maintain consciousness; with delirium, you don’t.

2) Depression

People with depression have likely experienced moments of forgetfulness and disorientation. A simple way to tell the difference between depression and dementia is looking at the timeline… Depressed people become depressed first and experience memory-related symptoms later, whereas people with dementia become depressed as a result of their declining cognitive function.

3) Vitamin B12 Deficiency

This crucial deficiency can lead to pernicious anemia, a rare condition associated with confusion, slowness, apathy, and irritability. If you suspect this is the case, see your doctor as soon as possible to make sure your body can even absorb vitamin B12 properly.

4) Thyroid Disease

Individuals with hypothyroidism will likely exhibit dementia-like symptoms. One of the best things you can do is get a thyroid hormone blood test to determine the best possible treatment.

5) Alcoholism

People who are alcoholic can suffer bouts of confusion and amnesia which can mimic the same experiences as someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Although alcoholism can deteriorate the ability to remember and orientate oneself, abstinence and overcoming addiction can help reverse dementia.



[2] Alzheimer’s Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[3] 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[4] Dementia. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[5] Gray, S. L. (2015, March 01). Strong Anticholinergics and Incident Dementia. Retrieved from

[6] Anticholinergics: List, Side Effects, and More. (n.d.). Retrieved from

[7] Acetylcholine (ACh). (n.d.). Retrieved from

[8] Merz, B. (2017, May 23). Common anticholinergic drugs like Benadryl linked to increased dementia risk. Retrieved from

[9] What’s Causing Your Memory Loss? (n.d.). Retrieved from

[1] Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Full article:


Heath Ledger – awareness

Overdose awareness Day!

Heath Ledger, Prescription drugs and overdose.

‘It was [10] years ago … but to me it’s like it was yesterday.’

These are the words of Kim Ledger as he recalled the loss of his son Heath to an opioid overdose in January 2008.

The 28-year-old actor had been caught up in a punishing production schedule, flying between three different countries and filming scenes at night in the bitter cold. He contracted a chest infection that developed into pneumonia, and experienced insomnia.

Heath visited a variety of doctors on his travels to help deal with these problems, collecting a veritable cornucopia of prescription medications, including opioids and sleeping pills.

In combination, the opioids, sleeping pills and the chest infection itself had a depressing effect on Heath’s respiratory system, causing it to shut down. This made him a high-profile casualty of what was emerging as a prescription opioid epidemic, which includes the use of legal drugs such as codeine, fentanyl and oxycodone.

This phenomenon has claimed thousands of lives in Australia and around the world.

While Heath’s death was the result of a medication mix he didn’t realise would exact such a heavy toll, other opioid users have a more long-term relationship with these types of drugs, often becoming unexpectedly addicted after using them as a treatment for chronic non-malignant pain.

‘The accidental addict. In a very short space of time, people can become addicted to oxycodone and products like that,’ Kim said.

Such was the case of 30-year-old nurse and mother of two, Katie Howman, found dead following a fentanyl overdose in her Toowoomba home just before Christmas in 2013. Investigations revealed she had visited 20 different doctors and 15 different pharmacies over the previous 13 months in her search for opioids.

Opioids – a category that includes pharmaceuticals such as oxycodone and fentanyl, as well as illicit versions such as heroin – remain the main cause of accidental overdose death in Australia. Opioid-related deaths hovered at around 450 per year at the turn of the century, but these numbers have risen sharply since 2006 to hit over 1100 per year since 2014.

What has led us to this epidemic, and what can GPs do to help curb it?

Too good to be true
In the late 1990s, prescription opioids seemed like an ideal answer to the often-difficult problem of chronic, non-malignant pain.

‘There was an increased demand to treat chronic pain. There were very few options and very little research that had been done on this problem,’ Dr Evan Ackermann, a GP with a special interest in opioids, told the RACGP.

‘This was mixed with a situation of some fairly aggressive drug company marketing of opioids and a change of clinical attitude towards pain. Normally, pain would be part of the healing process, but people started to say we should be looking at pain as the “fifth sign” and treating it aggressively.

‘It was a cultural shift across the healthcare sector, across the board, from pharmacy right through to general practice, specialists and hospitals.’…………….
‘There is a sense out there sometimes that it’s just people choosing to do this, that there’s a dichotomy between the genuine-pain patient and the bad drug user,’ she said. ‘My experience is that they’re the same group of people.

‘Opioids interact with us as a species in a particular way; all of us are at risk of side-effects and one of those major side-effects is dependency and addiction.’


full story

Exerpt from:

Toxic chemical sold illegally online as slimming pill kills five men in six months, ITV News finds

Losing a child is unimaginable. Losing a child to a toxic chemical, sold as a slimming pill, is even more so. But that’s what five families this year are having to come to terms with.

ITV News can reveal that 2,4-Dinitrophenol, or DNP, has killed five men in the last six months.

It’s sold on the internet for body building and weight reduction, yet it is illegal for human consumption because of its highly poisonous components.

In 2016 one person died from it, two in 2017 and already in 2018 five fatalities have been recorded. The figures could be higher because data for this little known drug is so sparse.

Andrius Gerbutavicius’s son, Vaidotas, bought DNP on the internet. He’d been using it on and off for three years.

In March this year, Andrius got a panicked phone call from his 21-year-old son.

He’d taken around 20 capsules of DNP and was feeling very unwell. Four hours later, after being put into an induced coma, he died.

“It was a normal Saturday morning, 10th of March, we wake up to a call from our son. I pick up the phone, he told me, ‘dad I’ve overdosed on DNP,'” Andrius told ITV News.

He went on: “He said ‘I’ve overdosed, I will be dead in probably one hour, no one can help me.”

Andrius had no idea what DNP was, let alone how toxic it was. He’s angry it is readily available to buy and marketed as a weight loss drug.

He said: “I want to warn anyone who considers taking it as a slimming pill, don’t do that because now we know that any quantity could be deadly and at the moment there is no antidote.

“I will do everything that I can to prevent other families going through the same thing.”

DNP basically heats the body from the inside out. It prevents energy being stored as fat and can damage the cells of organs such as muscle, kidney and brain.

The increase in temperature can result in seizures, coma or kidney failure.

Professor Simon Thomas, from the National Poisons Information Service, has studied the drug.

“Specifically what DNP does to the body is it blocks the ability of the body’s cells to store energy, for example as fat and instead of being stored, that energy is then released as heat,” he said.

The National Poisons Information Service receives enquiries from health professionals all over the UK about patient’s they’re concerned about with poisoning.

Professor Thomas said: “At the last count 17% of all the patients that we were contacted about (regarding DNP) ended up dying from DNP poisoning.”

“There is a myth that taken in small does this drug is perfectly safe to use. That couldn’t be more wrong. Even in small, recommended doses, DNP can be fatal. Few people realise it’s harmful at all.”

Doug Shipsey lost his daughter to the drug. He’s now campaigning to have it banned and wants everyone to know how dangerous it is.

“Ultimately step one is to make sure that DNP is regulated and in the long term, that it’s banned. My aim is to get this substance banned, it is so lethal.”

He added: “This isn’t a diet pill, they’re swallowing a bomb, an explosive, it is in the same category as TNT.”

Doug and Andrius just want to get the message out. Despite the police trying restrict the illegal sale of it, they believe more needs to be done, urgently.

The Government acknowledges the negative health impacts of DNP but efforts to have it regulated as a drug are unlikely to succeed.

A Government spokesperson said:“DNP is an extremely dangerous poison which if consumed can lead to coma or death. Supplying DNP products for human consumption is illegal.

“As DNP is a poison and not a drug, it cannot be considered for control by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.”

Full article:

Trusting the “medical” system?

This five minutes could be the most important for your health & honest statement spoken about the medical “industry”.



The full two hours debate here

Super session in the 2-hour European Parliament meeting on Thursday – so many issues raised by Dr. Aseem Malhotra, MEP Nathan Gill, Sir Richard Thomson, Professor Hanno Pijl and Sarah Macklin. Now edited with HD footage and clear sound. Let’s get the message out – MEP Nathan Gill and Aseem reckon a million views would be a great goal – only if it gets shared like hell !

To allow doctors to be honest and give best advice for our health, the medical and pharmaceutical industry needs transparency and movement away from profit orientated business and poor medicine.

Stevens-Johnson syndrome

Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a rare but serious disorder that affects the skin, mucous membrane, genitals and eyes.

The mucous membrane is the soft layer of tissue that lines the digestive system from the mouth to the anus, as well as the reproductive organs and eyeballs.

It is usually caused by an unpredictable adverse reaction to certain medications. It can also sometimes be caused by an infection.

The syndrome often begins with flu-like symptoms, followed by a red or purple rash that spreads and forms blisters. The affected skin eventually dies and peels off.

Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a medical emergency that requires treatment in hospital, often in intensive or a burns unit.


  • feeling generally unwell
  • high temperature
  • joint pain
  • a cough
  • a rash that looks like a target
  • facial swelling
  • crusty sores and blistering


Hospital treatment is required immediately.

Treatment while in hospital may include:

  • strong painkillers
  • cold compress against the skin
  • moisturising affected skin
  • fluid replacement
  • antibiotics
  • eye drops and ointment

Girl left covered in burns and blisters that glued her eyes shut after suffering allergic reaction to PAINKILLERS

When Treatment Turns to Addiction: Emerging Issues in Over-the-Counter and Prescription Drug Abuse


As the availability of both over-the-counter and prescription medications has grown, medications that were previously classified as “harmless” are now being misused. Detection of misuse of other substances can be difficult as many are not found on typical screens. In this article, we discuss promethazine, quetiapine, loperamide, bupropion, zolpidem, and gabapentin, and our current understanding of their misuse and the characteristics of their addictive properties if known. Although we know much about their clinical indications, the reasons and reinforcing properties leading to their misuse is largely unknown. With this article, we also hope to raise clinician awareness for the potential medical consequences and psychotropic effects stemming from the misuse of these drugs. [Psychiatr Ann. 2018;48(8):379–383.]

ADHD treatment may be needed by hundreds of thousands more children, experts suggest

| The Independent:

Hundreds of thousands more schoolchildren should be treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), say leading experts.

A major study led by University of Oxford academics suggests ADHD is seriously underdiagnosed and says more children should be given medication such as Ritalin, which it found is highly effective.

Concerns have been raised about the number of youngsters overmedicated for the disorder – but the evidence suggests just 10 per cent of those with ADHD are on any form of medication.

“We have strong evidence that in the UK, and many countries outside the US, ADHD is under recognised and under diagnosed,” said Professor David Coghill, a child and adolescent psychiatry expert from the University of Melbourne and a co-author of the study.

Full article

Stromea – “sick as a result of the pills”

Editorial: This post comes from a Belgian colleague. Belgium’s best-selling pop singer Stromae has been talking about his drug-induced illness all over the media since last year. He claims the anti-malaria drug Lariam (mefloquine) made him instantly psychotic and caused long-term anxiety problems which have already persisted for 3 years after stopping the drug, and still counting. See this account in the Guardian and this elsewhere. It is not that I don’t believe him – we should give him the benefit of the doubt in matters like these – but in a country such as Belgium, which has the highest prescription rates for benzodiazepines in the world, and also very high antidepressant and antipsychotic use, not a single person has ever been allowed to blame his symptoms on a prescribed drug. Ever. There are literally ZERO confirmed and officially recognized cases of benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome in Belgium. Certainly my protracted withdrawal syndrome has never been validated, and I was on 7 different benzos, all on prescription and taken as prescribed, for nothing more than plain insomnia. I was also taken off the tablets abruptly no less than 6 times, by the best psychiatrists of the country.

So what’s the deal with Stromae then? His doctors believed him instantly, and his diagnosis “sick as a result of the pills” is doubted by no one. He can talk about his illness freely without anyone stopping him. If ordinary mortals like myself say the drugs made us ill they treat us as attention-seeking loons. It’s also interesting to note that the singer openly admits he was already on the verge of a nervous breakdown prior to taking Lariam. I looked up the frequency of serious complications with this medication and all sources say it is only 1 in 10.000. I assume this is an underestimate but still the actual percentage would never be as high as 15% of users, which is how many benzo users get into serious trouble with also long-term damage after quitting (as in YEARS). Roche by the way are responsible for both Lariam and the benzodiazepines. I’ve already told our Minister of Health that I don’t have to take this. Millions of Belgians are with 100% certainty sick because they take prescription drugs, and none of them is ever believed. But now a celebrity says he was damaged by medication he took for a couple of days 3 years ago and he gets away with it. I have not received a reply from our Minister of Public Health yet regarding the Stromae case versus the total neglect of benzo victims. But I know she reads my e-mails, or at least her staff does, because in the past I have received replies on different matters. Also in my letter of complaint to the minister was this: in January, a leading Belgian child psychiatrist denied on live TV that we prescribe too many antidepressants to children.

Two types of drugs you may want to avoid for the sake of your brain – Harvard Health

If you’re worried about developing dementia, you’ve probably memorized the list of things you should do to minimize your risk—eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, and keeping your mind and soul engaged. In addition, some of the drugs you may be taking to help you accomplish those things could increase your risk of dementia. In two separate large population studies, both benzodiazepines (a category that includes medications for anxiety and sleeping pills) and anticholinergics (a group that encompasses medications for allergies and colds, depression, high blood pressure, and incontinence) were associated with an increased risk of dementia in people who used them for longer than a few months. In both cases, the effect increased with the dose of the drug and the duration of use.

These findings didn’t come entirely as a surprise to doctors who treat older people. “The Beer’s List published by the American Geriatrics Society has long recognized benzodiazepines, antihistamines, and tricyclic antidepressants as potentially inappropriate for older adults, given their side effects,” says Dr. Lauren J. Gleason, a physician in the Division of Aging at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Such drugs are on the list because they share troubling side effects—confusion, clouded thinking, and memory lapses—that can lead to falls, fractures, and auto accidents.

Full article:

The path from painkillers to heroin

The path from painkillers to heroin

Experts warn that prescription painkillers are leading individuals to become addicted to heroin.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, among 75% of heroin users report using opiod prescription pain medication prior to trying heroin. Despite the known side effects, painkillers like Co-codomol, Tramadol and Morphine are among the several prescription opiods prescribed by doctors in the UK for chronic pain. In 2017 alone, nearly 24 million opiods were prescribed in the UK. Further, recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show the number of people dying from opioid-related drug misuse has reached a record high in England and Wales, with around 3,700 people dying in 2016 because of drug misuse, 2000 of these involving an opiod medication. With the increase in prescription opiods use, many now question whether there is an increased risk of those who are prescribed such painkillers eventually using heroin.

Addiction through opiod painkillers develops quickly and before patients realise they progress from legitimate painkiller use to the stage of dependency and tolerance, meaning that the usual dosage is no longer sufficient to manage their pain and simply use the painkillers to keep withdrawals at bay. Many patients report that once their doctors become aware there is a problem, they stop prescribing and eventually cut them off completely; with little to no support and leaving them with nowhere to turn. Now dependent on the medication and their prescription no longer available, many patients become so desperate that they turn to heroin when they lose access to the painkillers.

This transition is all too familiar to one of PAST’s service users, who states “I broke my back in a car accident and was prescribed several pain killers, including MST (Morphine), Dydocodiene and Tramadol. I knew I was addicted as I had started to use the medication simply to feel normal and would often take more than necessary; resulting in me telling the doctor that I had ‘lost’ my prescription in order to obtain more. 3 years after my accident I was called into the doctor’s to speak about my repeat prescription and she expressed concern that I was addicted. I knew I was and she did too. The doctor immediately reduced my medication and gave me 3 weeks to come off the medication completely. The withdrawals were excruciating and I felt that I had no choice but to resort to buying the opiod pills on the street and online, and when this became too expensive I eventually began to use heroin.”

Whilst prescribed medication is not solely responsible for heroin use as many heroin users have not previously used prescription opiods, it cannot be denied that there is strong evidence demonstrating a significant number of patients prescribed opiods eventually move to heroin. There is no clear answer to this problem but it is certainly shows that there is a desperate need for support for those individuals who may have problems with prescription opiods.

If you think that you may have a problem with painkillers, whether prescription, over the counter or even online then why not attend a PAST meeting on a Tuesday afternoon at Chapter Arts, Cardiff for a coffee and a chat.

Written by Joanna Whitton – PAST