4 drugs that can give you dementia

If it’s not shocking enough that dementia kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, how about this…

You may be taking a common medication right now that increases your risk of developing dementia by as much as 50 percent!

To date, a few studies have raised a number of medications into the dementia-causing spotlight. You may want to take this list and have a look in your medicine cabinet…

Oxybutynin (Ditropan XL) for bladder control

Anticholinergic drugs, like oxybutynin, are prescribed for the treatment of urinary incontinence. Essentially, they stop the involuntary nerve impulses that cause things like muscle cramps, urination, coughing and sneezing.

To do this, they block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from binding to receptors on nerve cells. But acetylcholine is also critical for memory function.

That’s why using anticholinergics can put people at higher risk for developing Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), and possibly, dementia.

Researchers suggest there are other options but physicians turn to this drug because it’s a cheaper option. And it seems, at your expense…

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For women, age, childbirth, menopause and hormone fluctuations take a toll on healthy urinary function. For men, an aging body may result in the need for bladder support. Whatever the cause, occasional urinary urgency can… MORE⟩⟩


Taking these types of drugs for more than three years has been linked to a significantly increased risk of dementia.

What can you do for bladder control instead?

I’ve previously covered the use of pumpkin seed extract and Kegel exercises for bladder issues, two natural options with proven effectiveness.

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for allergies and colds

Reaching for those antihistamines to address your seasonal allergies — sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, hives, skin rash, itching, and other cold symptoms — may seem like a good idea.

However, this commonly used medication is also an anticholinergic medication and may increase your dementia risk. That’s why it’s important to take the lowest dose possible for the shortest amount of time.

Try these natural allergy symptom-relievers.

Tricyclic antidepressants

Anticholinergic effects appear to be responsible for the cognitive effects of tricyclic antidepressants. The effects of these drugs appear to be dose-dependent, with low doses coinciding with subtle cognitive impairment and increasing to not-so-subtle impairment as dosages are increased

Some popular medications in this group include:

  • Amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep)
  • Clomipramine (Anafranil)
  • Imipramine (Tofranil)
  • Trimipramine (Surmontil)
  • Doxepin (Sinequan, Adapin)

Taking antidepressants may be useful for those with severe clinical depression. However, there are other alternatives to tricyclic antidepressants. And since these have been shown to increase the risk of dementia, discussing alternatives with your physician is a great idea.

Since antidepressants are not all that useful to most people, consider trying proven alternatives. You may also be surprised to learn how much vitamin deficiencies affect depression.

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Doxepin hydrochloride (Silenor) for insomnia

If you have trouble staying asleep, your physician may prescribe you doxepin hydrochloride. But if you’re a regular user dosing around 10 mg per day and continue to do that for three years, your risk of dementia can skyrocket.

All of these medications are classed in the category of ‘anticholinergic’ medications and have an average usage between 8 to 37 percent. It’s not unknown that these meds cause immediate cognitive effects such as altered attention, changes to working memory, and slower cognitive speed. But when following your physician’s advice, you probably don’t expect to up your risk of dementia by more than 50 percent.

Unfortunately, there are too many drugs to list here… but you can learn about other prescriptions for amnesia and brain robbery that my colleague Margaret Cantwell wrote about, including Xanax and Lipitor to name a few.

Sometimes it’s the simplest of solutions that are the remedy, like adopting the bedtime routine of a toddler. You might be surprised at how well this works!

Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!


  1. 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures — Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved 2 June, 2017
  2. Gray SL, et al. Cumulative Use of Strong Anticholinergics and Incident Dementia. — JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(3):401-407.
  3. Common anticholinergic drugs like Benadryl linked to increased dementia risk — Merz B. (2015). Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved 2 June, 2017
Jedha Dening

By Jedha Dening

Jedha Dening is a qualified nutritionist (MNutr), researcher, author, freelance writer, and founder of type 2 diabetic nutrition site Diabetes Meal Plans. Her masters thesis on nutrition and inflammation was published and then presented at a national scientific conference. She has millions of words published in the health industry across various print and online publications. Having been in the field for over 15 years, she’s incredibly passionate about delving into the latest research to share the myths and truths surrounding nutrition and health. She believes when armed with the right knowledge, we’re empowered to make informed choices that can truly make a difference.