The scary side effect of memory loss is a possibility for many commonly prescribed medications.
According to AARP, the following 8 drugs and drug classes may cause memory loss:
1. Benzodiazepines
Antianxiety agents may cause memory loss due to the sedative effect that they have on certain parts of the brain. Most notably, the drug’s effects are involved in the transfer of events from short-term to long-term memory.
Midazolam, in particular, is believed to have severe amnesic properties.
2. Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs
Statins and other high cholesterol busters may impair memory by lowering cholesterol levels in the brain as well as in the blood. Lipids in the blood are essential in the formation of connections between nerve cells, which underlie memory and learning.
In 2012, the FDA modified the labels for statins to reflect their increased risk for memory problems.
3. Antiepileptic Agents
Anticonvulsants limit seizures by depressing the flow of signals within the central nervous system (CNS), which may in turn lead to the potential for memory loss.
4. Narcotic Painkillers
Opioid analgesics function by stemming the flow of pain signals within the CNS and blunting one’s emotional reaction to pain, which has been shown to increase the risk of memory loss.
5. Dopamine Agonists
These Parkinson’s medications activate the signaling pathways for the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is key for brain functions like motivation, pleasure, fine motor control, learning, and memory.
Because of this, dopamine agonists may lead to major side effects such as memory loss, confusion, delusions, and compulsive behaviors.
6. Antihypertensive Drugs
Beta-blockers are believed to cause memory issues by interfering with norepinephrine and epinephrine, which are both key chemical messengers in the brain.
7. Incontinence Medications
These anticholinergics may cause memory loss because they block the action of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger involved with many functions in the body.
The risk of memory loss and cognitive decline is exacerbated when patients take incontinence medications for an extended period of time, or when they’re used with other anticholinergic drugs.
8. Antihistamines
Similar to incontinence drugs, these allergy medications inhibit the action of acetylcholine, the chemical messenger that mediates many bodily functions.
In the brain, acetylcholine inhibits activities in the memory and learning centers, thereby potentially leading to memory loss.