Avoid These Brain-Slowing Drugs to Protect Your Memory

Many people worry about becoming forgetful, particularly the elderly. Forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. As we age, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. But just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you will inevitably experience memory loss.

According to the National Institute on Aging, causes of memory problems can include aging, medical conditions, emotional problems, mild cognitive impairment, or other conditions. Some habits are known to cause memory problems and cognitive symptoms as well, such as alcohol and drug abuse, heavy cigarette smoking, head injuries, stroke, sleep deprivation, severe stress, and vitamin B12 deficiency. What most people don’t realize is that some common drugs can impair one’s memory too.

Here are some common types of medications that may be making you more forgetful.

1. Antianxiety drugs (Benzodiazepines)

Antianxiety drugs (Benzodiazepines)

Benzodiazepines are prescribed for various anxiety disorders, agitation, delirium, muscle spasms, and for preventing seizures. 

Examples: Diazepam (Valium), Alprazolam (Xanax), Clonazepam (Klonopin), Chlordiazepoxide (Librium), Lorazepam (Ativan), And Temazepam (Restoril).

Benzodiazepines can slow down activity in the central nervous system, including those areas of the brain that help with the transfer of short-term memory to long-term memory. This is the reason why benzodiazepines are used in anesthesia, as they can “sedate” by slowing down activity in the central nervous system.

These drugs are prescribed to older adults with caution, as they tend to stay in their system longer. Too much buildup of benzodiazepines in older adults can lead to memory loss, delirium, and other cognitive issues. 

If you take any benzodiazepine medications for insomnia, mild anxiety, or agitation, talk to your physician about using some other types of drugs. For example, melatonin might be helpful if you have insomnia.

Make sure you consult your doctor before stopping or reducing the dosage of any benzodiazepine medication. Sudden withdrawal might cause serious side effects. 

2. Sleeping aids (Non-benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotics)

Sleeping aids (Non-benzodiazepine sedative-hypnotics)

These medications are used to treat insomnia and other sleep problems such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and restless legs syndrome. Sometimes called "Z" drugs, they are sometimes prescribed for mild anxiety.

Examples: Zolpidem (Ambien), Zaleplon (Sonata), and Eszopiclone (Lunesta).

The "Z" drugs affect some of the same brain chemical messengers and nerve pathways in the central nervous system that benzodiazepines do, even though both are molecularly distinct from one another. Clinical studies have shown how these drugs impair thinking and balance in the short term. Some studies have linked these drugs to dementia in the elderly as well. Sleeping pills can cause amnesia, depression, and sleep disturbances.

For alternatives, talk with your doctor about options. Healthcare professionals say that a 3-10 mg dose of melatonin before bedtime can help with sleep problems.

Related: These Tips Will Help Improve Your Sleep Quality

3. Cholesterol-lowering drugs (Statins)

Cholesterol-lowering drugs (Statins)

Statins are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for high cholesterol.

Examples: Atorvastatin (Lipitor), Fluvastatin (Lescol), Lovastatin (Mevacor), Pravastatin (Pravachol), Rosuvastatin (Crestor), and Simvastatin (Zocor).

Some users who have taken cholesterol-lowering drugs have reported that they experienced memory loss. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes that taking statins may cause memory loss, forgetfulness, and confusion.

A 2015 study published in the Australian Medical Journal found that patients taking statins experienced amnesia. Another study published in 2009 in the journal Pharmacotherapy revealed that three out of four people using these drugs experienced adverse cognitive effects “probably or definitely related to statin therapy.” Interestingly, the researchers of this study found that 90% of the patients who stopped statin therapy reported improvements in cognition, sometimes within a few days.

If you are taking statins and experiencing any adverse side effects, talk to your doctor.

4. Incontinence drugs (Anticholinergics)

urinary incontinence

These medications are used to treat bladder and urinary incontinence. They are also used to treat other conditions such as high blood pressure, asthma, and Parkinson's disease.

Examples: Oxybutynin (Ditropan XL, Oxytrol, Gelnique), Darifenacin (Enablex), Solifenacin (Vesicare), Trospium (Sanctura), and Tolterodine (Detrol).

Anticholinergic medications work by blocking the action of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger that plays a role in arousal, memory, learning, and neuroplasticity. Anticholinergic drugs prevent involuntary contractions or spasms of bladder muscles and relieve symptoms of urinary incontinence. However, anticholinergic agents can also restrict activity in the memory and learning centers in the brain.

A 2006 study of oxybutynin ER found its effect on memory to be comparable to about 10 years of cognitive aging. The use of anticholinergic medicines is of particular concern for older people because of adverse effects like impaired physical function, loss of balance, cognitive impairment, delirium, blurred vision, constipation, and urinary retention.

Therefore, never use these medicines on your own accord, only by prescription.

Related: Take Care of Urinary Incontinence Naturally with This Guide

5. Antidepressant drugs (Tricyclic antidepressants)


Antidepressants are prescribed for depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, chronic pain, nerve pain, smoking cessation, hot flashes, severe menstrual cramps, and other hormone-mediated conditions.
Examples: Amitriptyline (Elavil), Clomipramine (Anafranil), Desipramine (Norpramin), Doxepin (Sinequan), Imipramine (Tofranil), Nortriptyline (Pamelor), Protriptyline (Vivactil), and Trimipramine (Surmontil)

These drugs correct chemical imbalances in the brain to reduce symptoms of depressive disorders. However, Harvard Health Publishing notes that several types of antidepressants can cause forgetfulness, such as paroxetine (Paxil), amitriptyline (Elavil), desipramine (Norpramin), or nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor). Some studies have also shown that patients taking antidepressant drugs may suffer from memory impairment.

Experts say that if you experience memory loss associated with this medication, you should work with your doctor to switch to another similar drug that is less likely to cause any memory-related issues.

Related: These Common Antidepressants Could be Causing Dementia!

6. Narcotic painkillers

Narcotic painkillers

Also called opioid analgesics, these medications are used to provide pain relief from moderate to chronic pain, such as the pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis.

Examples: Oxycodone (Oxycontin, Roxicodone), Hydrocodone with Acetaminophen (Norco, Vicodin), Morphine (MS-Contin, Kadian), Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo), and Fentanyl (Duragesic). 

Narcotic painkillers work by stopping the flow of pain signals within the central nervous system, thereby blocking the feeling of pain. The main chemical messengers that transmit these effects of these drugs are also involved in various aspects of cognition. Thus, narcotic painkillers can lead to long-term and short-term memory problems and should be used for short periods only.

Talk with your doctor to understand whether narcotic painkillers are a good choice for you.

Related: WARNING: Painkillers May Increase the Risk Of Heart Attack

7. Antihistamines (First-generation)


Antihistamines are commonly prescribed medications used to relieve or prevent allergy symptoms. They are also used to prevent motion sickness, nausea, insomnia, vomiting, and dizziness.

Examples: Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), Brompheniramine (Dimetane), Clemastine (Tavist), Hydroxyzine (Vistaril), and Carbinoxamine (Colistin).

Antihistamines block the action of acetylcholine and may hamper activity in the memory and learning centers in the brain, leading to memory loss.

Studies have linked the long-term use of these drugs to an increased risk of dementia. A study from Harvard Health Publishing found that anticholinergic drugs like Benadryl can increase dementia risk. The researchers involved in the study tracked about 3,500 senior men and women ages 65 for seven years and discovered that those who used anticholinergics for three years or more had 54% higher dementia risk than those taking the same dose for three months or less. 

Experts say that newer-generation antihistamines such as loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec) are better for older patients than first-generation (older) ones. Talk to your doctor about whether antihistamines might be the best choice for you.

Related: These Medications Should Never Be Mixed with Exercise!

8. Antiseizure drugs

Apart from treating seizures (convulsions or epilepsy), antiseizure drugs are also used to treat nerve pain, mood disorders, and bipolar disorder.

Examples: Acetazolamide (Diamox), Carbamazepine (Tegretol), Ezogabine (Potiga), Gabapentin (Neurontin), Lamotrigine (Lamictal), Levetiracetam (Keppra), Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal), Pregabalin (Lyrica), Rufinamide (Banzel), Topiramate (Topamax), Valproic Acid (Depakote), and Zonisamide (Zonegran).

These medications work by slowing down signals in the central nervous system. All drugs that dampen signaling in the central nervous system can cause memory loss.

A study by the University of Eastern Finland in 2018 found that regular use of antiseizure drugs increases the risk of Alzheimer's and dementia. Therefore, these medications should be taken with caution and under supervision. 

Share this post with all your loved ones...

Receive the newest health updates directly to your mail inbox
Did you mean:
Continue With: Google
By continuing, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy
Receive the newest health updates directly to your mail inbox
Did you mean:
Continue With: Google
By continuing, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy