(Natural News) Talk about the dose making the poison – a common class of drugs prescribed to treat Parkinson’s disease and depression can increase a person’s risk of dementia, according to a large study conducted by the University of Nottingham in England. The study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, investigated the link between taking anticholinergic drugs and dementia risk.
Anticholinergics are drugs that block the action of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter associated with many bodily functions. Acetylcholine is found in motor neurons, where it stimulates muscle contraction. The neurotransmitter is also involved in the movements of the heart and stomach, even in the blinking of the eyes. Acetylcholine is also found in the brain, where it plays a vital role in cognition and memory.
Anticholinergics are prescribed to block involuntary muscle movements, such as those seen in patients with Parkinson’s disease. In addition, they are also used to help maintain body functions in surgery, especially if a person is treated with anesthesia.
The drugs are also prescribed for the following conditions:
- Overactive bladder
- Urinary incontinence
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
Treat now, kill later?
Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease that affects a person’s thinking, memory, behavior and ability to perform daily tasks. While the disease most often affects older adults, it is not part of the aging process. Currently, over 50 million are diagnosed with dementia worldwide, with 10 million new cases added every year.
The researchers looked at data showing associations between anticholinergic drug therapy and dementia risk in older adults.
In their study, the team reviewed the medical records of 58,769 people with dementia and 22,574 people without the condition. The researchers focused on the caseloads of older adults 55 years old or above at baseline.
Based on the team’s findings, taking anticholinergic drugs, in general, can increase a person’s risk for dementia, even after controlling other variables. In particular, those who take anticholinergics, antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, anti-Parkinson’s drugs, bladder drugs and epilepsy medication, and those who have taken strong anticholinergics for at least three years, were 50 percent more likely to develop dementia.
“This study provides further evidence that doctors should be careful when prescribing certain drugs that have anticholinergic properties,” said Nottingham researcher and co-author Tom Dening. “If [people] have concerns, then they should discuss them with their doctor to consider the pros and cons of the treatment they are receiving.”
Researchers noted that while this is an observational study, their findings highlight the need for regular medication reviews, as certain drugs can lead to negative outcomes later on.
“[The] study adds further evidence of the potential risks associated with strong anticholinergic drugs, particularly antidepressants, bladder antimuscarinic drugs, anti-Parkinson’s drugs, and epilepsy drugs,” explained lead author Carol Coupland.
“We found a greater risk for people diagnosed with dementia before the age of 80, which indicates that anticholinergic drugs should be prescribed with caution in middle-aged people as well as in older people.”
Another study published in Scientific Reports also looked at whether anticholinergic drugs can adversely impact cognition in older adults. The researchers found that older adults who are prescribed strong doses of these drugs are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease – a form of dementia that causes problems with thinking and behavior – over a nine-year period. (Related: Understanding the medical differences between Alzheimer’s and dementia.)
“Strong [anticholinergic drugs] not only have a negative impact on cognitive function but can also affect the risk of [Alzheimer’s disease] in terms of incidence,” the team concluded in their report.
Learn about other drugs and medications that increase the risk of certain diseases at BadMedicine.news.