It’s no longer assumed that memory loss is an unavoidable part of aging. Research has shown there are many other possible causes and contributors to memory impairment in older adults. A column, Ask the Pharmacist on AARP.org, explains that besides the usual culprits causing memory loss — alcohol abuse, sleep disruption, or high levels of stress, your prescribed medications may be to blame. Because taking drugs for hypertension, high cholesterol, or depression is so common these days, we sometimes forget they’re powerful and often have debilitating side effects. Below are some of the medications described in the article that may cause memory loss.
- Anti-anxiety drugs – Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax are used to treat anxiety, but also to prevent seizures. These drugs can interfere in the brain’s transfer of events from short-term to long-term memory.
- High cholesterol – Statins like Lipitor are used to reduce blood levels of cholesterol, but the brain can be affected when lipids are lowered, affecting memory.
- Anti-depressants – The tricyclic (TCAs) group, such as Elavil, for depression are also prescribed for eating disorders or smoking cessation. The article cites 35 percent of adults taking TCAs have some level of memory loss.
- Painkillers – Narcotics in the opioid group, such as Vicodin ,block pain signals in the brain, but also can affect cognition, short- and long-term memory.
- Hypertension drugs – Beta-blockers, such as Lopressor, are believed to interfere with memory when the chemicals meant to reduce blood pressure block other brain messages.
- Sleeping aids – Medications for insomnia, such as Ambien, can cause memory loss and sometimes amnesia. Similar to the benzodiazepines, these drugs act on the some of the same brain chemicals.
- Incontinence drugs – Prescribed for overactive bladder or incontinence, drugs like Ditropan can block acetylcholine, which controls many functions besides the bladder. Memory loss can result from this blocking.
Consult Your Physician
If you have concerns about medications you’re taking described above or any other drugs, ask your doctor about possible memory impairment side effects. It’s never a good idea to change or discontinue your prescribed medication without consulting your doctor. Always ask your pharmacist to include the drug information pamphlet when you have your prescriptions filled.