ACH Blog

Dementia and Anticholinergics - An alternative

Isobel Cosgrove - Sunday, February 15, 2015

A research paper published at the end of January this year (Internal Medicine, Univ of Washington, Oregon) links a number of prescription and over the counter drugs (Anticholinergics) with an increased risk of dementia in those aged 65 years and above. They include Nytol, Night Nurse, Benadryl, Piriton, Amitriptyline and Warfarin. When taken they block a chemical transmitter in the nervous system called acetylcholine. This chemical/neurotransmitter is known to play a key role in the treatment of Dementia.  In sharp contrast, some anti-histamines, anti-depressants and incontinence medicines actually inhibit acetylcholine activity. It is therefore not surprising that this new research identifies some of these drugs as contributing to an increase in dementia.

During the last 35 years many patients have come to have treatment with us to get help in withdrawing from a dependency on some of the drugs described above. We have always gone through the withdrawal process in consultation with the client's GP. The withdrawal has taken place in stages, to allow the body to gradually adapt to life off the medications. I worked with a young client who has suffered for a decade with acute hay fever each Spring. In both 2013 and 2014 he had fortnightly acupuncture treatments from early March to June. He also used a Chinese herbal formula during April, May and June. Since the summer of 2013 he has used no anti-histamine medication.

In The Times, Dr. Mark Porter wrote that "there are still plenty of outdated over the counter treatments that contain powerful Anticholinergics, including the sedatives diphenhydramine and promethazine, found in sleeping aids like Nytol and cold and flu remedies such as Night Nurse. The clue is in the dry mouth."

And in the Guardian, Sarah Boseley argued "It makes sense for Doctors and pharmacists to rethink what they give people, and for the public to consider what they are taking. There are alternatives for many of these medicines. It is the older drugs that are in question here."

Please look at articles and other blogs on our website for more information on the treatment of insomnia, menopausal symptoms, and a range of allergic illnesses.

Isobel Cosgrove

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