You Might Be Taking “Dumb Drugs”

When I say “Dumb Drugs”, I am not referring to crack or meth. I am referring to a type of prescription or over-the-counter drug which people take every single day. Many commonly taken drugs have “anticholinergic” properties, and recent studies have found that these types of medications impair cognitive function.

Anticholinergic?

Anticholinergic refers to a substances ability to inhibit the function of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh). Neurotransmitters are electrochemical signals your brain cells use to communicate which each other. ACh is very important to your brain’s ability to create new memories and learn new things. When a substance impairs the functionality of ACh, it impairs your ability to learn and create memories. It surprises me that it took scientists this long to conduct studies on anticholinergic medications. Anyone with a basic understanding of neuroscience and neurotransmitters would be able to surmise that these types of medications impair cognitive abilities.

Studies revealed disturbing results.

So far there have been two studies performed to determine the effects of anticholinergic medication on patients. The first study was conducted on 13,000 men and women over the age of 65. It determined that individuals which took anticholinergic medications scored lower on a battery of different cognitive tests. Furthermore, individuals which took more anticholinergic medications scored lower than those who took less. For example, someone who took three anticholinergic medications did worse on cognitive tests than someone who only took one or two. Even more alarming, those who took anticholinergic medications had a mortality rate 68% percent higher than those who didn’t take any. The researchers adjusted for any interfering factors, but the results did not change. 1

The second study followed 4,000 individuals of all ages. It found that people taking three or more drugs which were “possibly” anticholinergic were over two times as likely to be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment when compared to people not taking any. 2 To see if you are taking any of these medications you should check the The Anticholinergic Cognitive Burden List (ACB). If you are taking any over-the-counter anticholinergic drugs, you should stop immediately. If you are taking prescription ones, schedule an appointment with your physician as soon as possible. Explain the situation to him and see if he can help find you an alternative.

If there are “dumb drugs” does that mean there are “smart drugs”?

There do exist supplements which act in the complete opposite way that anticholinergic drugs do. These types of supplements are called nootropics. Nootropics were originally created to treat various forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. Instead of impairing the function of acetylcholine, they improve its functionality. 3 By improving the functionality of ACh, studies have shown that they can improve memory and learning in completely healthy individuals. 4 Nootropic are marketed as dietary supplements. Many can be found in drug stores or online.

Author Bio

Andrew Reese is the writer for http://www.whatarenootropics.com/. There you can learn about nootropic supplements which have been proven to improve mental health and various cognitive functions.

Resources

1. Anticholinergic medication use and cognitive impairment in the older population: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21707557

2. Cocktail of popular drugs may cloud brain http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/27/cocktail-of-popular-drugs-may-cloud-brain/

3. Effect of oxiracetam and piracetam on central cholinergic mechanisms and active-avoidance acquisition http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3594455

4. Increase in the power of human memory in normal man through the use of drugs. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/826948

 


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