Reaching For Common Cold Medicine? Not So Fast

OTC cold meds

A new study has found some of the most common over-the-counter cold medicines are also linked to cognitive impairment in older adults.

The findings came from researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine and were published in JAMA Neurology in 2016. They found that drugs including Benadryl, Dimetapp and Dramamine have been shown to increase the risk of dementia. People who took anticholineric drugs also had smaller brain sizes and lower metabolism.

The scientists collected information from 451 people, 60 of whom were taking at least one medication that had moderate to extreme levels of anticholinergic activity. Those who took these medications recorded lower scores on memory based on cognitive tests, in addition to other tests that measured problem solving, verbal reasoning and planning.

“Given all of the research evidence, physicians might want to reconsider anticholinergic medications if available when working with their older patients,” said first author Shannon Risacher, PhD, assistant professor of radiology and imaging science, in a statement.

This study is not the first to find a link between anticholinergic drugs and cognitive issues in older adults. In 2003, another Indiana University team found that meds with a significant anticholinergic effect can cause cognitive issues in as little as 60 days of continuous use. And drugs with a weaker effect could cause impairment within 90 days.