Medications with 'anticholinergic' effects cause memory loss and other mental functions within just 60 days, researchers have discovered. Anticholinergic medications include prescription drugs for hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease and chronic lung problems as well as over-the-counter remedies for insomnia, poor digestion and antihistamines.
The drugs block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, but they also cause cognitive impairment, such as memory loss and general mental functioning.
Although the drugs' effects have been known for some time, researchers from the Regenstrief Institute were surprised just how quickly the drugs can cause problems. In a study of 3,690 older people taking anticholinergic medication, the researchers discovered that mental functioning began to be affected within 60 days. As the drugs are so readily available, there's a danger that people could be over-dosing and could even see their mental functioning decline more rapidly still.
(Source: Alzheimer's & Dementia, 2012; doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2012.02.005).