Research Finds Drug Side Effects Can Cause Symptoms of Dementia

Zhou Zheng

PureInsight | February 13, 2006

[] Reuters reported on February 1st,
2006 that some common drugs can cause symptoms similar to those of
dementia. These drugs include ones used to treat depression,
Parkinson’s disease, and allergies.

Researchers have found that these drugs can cause confusion, memory
loss and disorientation. "A large number of elderly people are taking
medications that can mimic early dementia and are likely to be classed
as having early dementia," said Karen Ritchie, of the Hopital La
Colombiere in Montpellier, France.  Alzheimer dementia
(Alzheimer’s disease) is the most common cause of dementia in seniors.
Ritchie indicated that symptoms of early stages of dementia arose in
many people after they took certain drugs, including common drugs to
treat allergy.

The researchers started their research by interviewing 372 elderly
people without dementia and questioning them about the drugs they had
taken and their past illnesses. Ten percent had used anticholinergic
drugs for a long period. After monitoring and assessing the patients
for up to 8 years, the researchers found that people who had used
anticholinergic drugs had poorer cognitive performance. Eight-five
percent met the criteria for mild cognitive impairment, compared to 35
percent of people who had not taken the drugs. The result of the study
was published in the British Medical Journal.

The side effects of many other drugs should not be ignored either. In
2004, Vioxx, which was manufactured by the pharmaceutical giant Merck,
was pulled from the market. It  was used to decrease inflammation
and to relieve pain. The annual sale of the drug once reached to 2.5
billion US dollars. However, because of reported side effects that
might lead to serious heart diseases, it was pulled off the market. The
side effects of other similar drugs (such as Pfizer’s Celebrex) are
still being investigated.

Meanwhile, people are looking for alternative ways to strengthen their
health and fight illness. An article published on November 5, 2005 in New Scientist
suggested that meditation can not only bring people relaxation and
inner tranquility, it can also promote people’s physical health as well
as improve their brain structures.

The article said that people who meditate say they feel vigorous and
energetic, as well as not needing as much sleep. Scientist at the
University of Kentucky in the United States conducted research into
this. They have a way to detect whether the person is awake or not and
their reactions and sensitivity levels. Ten volunteers participated in
the test. They were tested before and after 40 minutes of either sleep,
meditation, reading or light conversation, with all subjects trying all
conditions. What astonished the scientists was that meditation was the
only method that lead to immediate improvement in performance. None of
the test subjects had tried meditation before. Bruce O’Hara, the lead
researcher, said, “Every single subject showed improvement.�


[1] “Drug side effects can mimic early dementia�

[2] “Meditation builds up the brain�

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