Do antidepressants lead to increased dementia diseases?

So-called anticholinergics increase the risk of dementia

Dementia is a disease that affects more and more older people today. Researchers have now found that some bladder antidepressants and medications appear to be linked to the development of dementia.

The University of East Anglia scientists found in their current study that antidepressants and drugs for the bladder can contribute to the development of dementia. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "British Medical Journal" (BMJ).

Certain medications increase the risk of dementia

Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline, which are also used for pain and sleep disorders, and paroxetine (also known as Seroxat) were studied in the study to find out how these drugs affect the risk of dementia. There also seem to be some Parkinson's drugs that increase the likelihood of developing dementia.

What do anticholinergics do?

The group of drugs studied is also known as anticholinergics. These drugs can have a negative impact on patients. They can lead to short-term confusion and increase the likelihood of falls. About one in five people who take an antidepressant take a so-called anticholinergic (mostly amitriptyline), the experts say.

More and more people are taking many different medications

There is an increasing tendency to medication in the elderly, which often leads them to take a combination of medications for different diseases and ailments. This could be an important part of the problem, the doctors suspect. In the past twenty years, the number of elderly patients taking five or more medications has quadrupled, study author Dr. Ian Maidment from the University of East Anglia. Many of these drugs have an anticholinergic effect, and based on today's knowledge, it must be considered whether the risks of dementia outweigh the benefits of taking prescribed medications, the expert continues.

Medications block the messenger acetylcholine

The drugs for various ailments have a common mode of action, they block a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) called acetylcholine, which affects the bladder, mouth, stomach, eyes and heart. The messenger substance is also present in the brain and is important for cognition, memory and learning, the experts explain.

The data of more than 340,000 people were evaluated

The researchers examined the family doctor data of more than 40,000 people over the age of 65 with dementia and almost 300,000 participants without dementia. They looked at the prescribing materials of the past twenty years to find out whether there was a connection between the anticholinergic drugs taken and a later diagnosis of dementia. The scientists were thus able to determine that participants who took such medication between four and twenty years old were more likely to develop dementia as a result.

The risk of dementia increases with the intake

When patients take such drugs for depression, Parkinson's and bladder problems, the risk of dementia increases from ten percent (normal risk) to 13 percent. The early symptoms of dementia are depression and bladder weakness. It is possible that such drugs may be prescribed for people who are already in the early stages of dementia, the researchers suspect. It also became clear that the more pills or tablets the patient took over time, the more likely it was to diagnose dementia. But doctors warn that patients should not stop taking the medication without first talking to their doctor.

More research is needed

The statement that some drugs, such as antidepressants in particular, can cause dementia up to twenty years later should be carefully considered. The study assumed that patients actually take their medication as prescribed, which in reality is not always the case, the experts say. The safety of patients is a top priority, which is why the effects of all medications need to be carefully examined and further studies are now required. (as)

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