Cutting Edge Psychology

Medical drugs & Alzheimers disease.

Posted on September 18, 2013 at 1:40 AM

Commonly prescribed medical drugs and Alzheimers disease.

This is probably not an issue of immediate threat for most people of FaceBook age, but many people in this age group have elderly parents or grandparents who are at risk of either naturally occuring dementia, or medically induced dementia and premature death. Is there more dementia around now than in previous generations? There seems to be, and perhaps what we are witnessing is not the natural state of aging, but the result of well intended but harmful medical prescribing.

Research reported a couple of years ago clearly demonstrated that many of the drugs which elderly people are routinely put on for a wide range of health issues can actually increase the risk of dementia and premature death. Obviously, for elderly people, dementia and death are issues which loom on the horizon quite naturally. However, the research showed that the extent and pace of dementia can be greatly accelerated by specific types of prescription drugs, such as pain killers, heart medications, antihistamines, antidepressants, etc. Drugs which have a negative impact on acetylcholine (a brain chemical) are referred to as anticholinergic. Many of the drugs often prescribed to elderly people are anticholinergic, and the risk increases with the combination of drugs.

Read the attached article and click on the link to 'Full List of Drugs Investigated' , where you will find a comprehensive chart which rates common drugs on the level of risk they pose to the brain. This list shows the generic names of the drugs, not the brand names. If you have elderly people in your life who you care about, it is worth taking an interest in the drugs they are being prescribed. Do a little research on the net- get the brand names and google their generic name, then see if they are on the list of dangerous drugs. There are often non-anticholinegic drugs as viable alternatives. Many of the prescribers will be unaware of this research, but could be quite open to changing medications to safer options when it is brought to their attention. None of them want to see their elderly patients suffer dementia or premature death. It is possible that a lot of the mental suffering we see in the elderly can be prevented, or at least minimized and slowed down by something as simple as changing their drugs. Life years of good mental functioning may also be added.

Having watched my father in law slide into a rapid dementia, and a premature death, I could not help but suspect that the drugs which he was place on by his well intended physicians played a major role. As a result of becoming lonely and  contemplative in his retirement, he was viewed and treated as ‘depressed’ and placed on SSRI antidepressants, in addition to other medical drugs needed to treat physical conditions. As a result of his rapid decline into dementia which followed, the dosage of the antidepressant was increased and he was placed on a minor tranquillizer drug as well as an anti-psychotic drug. With his further and more rapid decline in mental and behavioural functioning, the dosage levels of all these drugs were just increased, until his ‘death by Alzheimers’.

The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society recently reported the results of the study of 13,000 people over the age of 65 in which their medications were noted for a two year period and their brain functioning and death rates were subsequently recorded.The study clearly indicates that drugs which interfere with the functioning of a acetylcholine increase the risk of damaging the brain, and result in premature deaths. Such drugs are divided into three groups for their effects on acetylcholine: mild, moderate, and severe. Of the 87 anticholinergic drugs which the study investigated, just over half are prescribed for general medical purposes for which there may be few alternatives. Most of the general medical drugs are inthe ‘mild’ risk category, and on their own, are less likely to cause problems. Only 19% of the ‘mild’ drugs are psychiatric drugs such as anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and anti-psychotic drugs. In contrast, around 67% of the drugs in the ‘moderate’ risk group are psychiatric drugs (anti-depressants, minor and major tranquilizers), and around 50% of the drugs in the ‘severe’ risk group are psychiatric drugs. Such psychiatric drugs as anti-depressantsand anti-anxiety drugs are now the most prescribed drugs in the Western world.

More than half the elderly people in the study sample (which is now nearly 20 years old) were on anticholinergic drugs- the more being used, the greater therisk to the brain. In the last 20 years, the prescription rates of anti-depressant drugs, most of which fall in the ‘moderate’ and ‘severe’ effect groups, has increased by several hundred  percent. Like my father in law, many more senior people are now being put on anti-depressant drugs, and when their mental functioning deteriorates, minor and major tranquillizers as well. This chemical cocktail has now been demonstrated to induce dementia, especially in people whose brain functioning may already be compromised, and may be a viable explanation for the increased rates of Alzheimers disease. The tragedy is that psychological and social interventions usually work very well in treating most of the problems which psychiatric drugs are prescribed for. Unlike many physical health conditions, viable alternatives exist for psychological problems, and they rarely produce adverse side effects. Simply putting elderly people on mind altering drugs rarely solves problems, but often creates major brain disabling effects. In the senior time of their lives, elderly people deserve a whole lot better than this. To the extent that we as a culture optfor easy drug solutions, we are failing miserably. If you are concerned about the drugs which you or others are on, find more information in the follow article:-       



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