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Some OTC Sleep, Cold Meds Could Harm Aging Brain
Date:6/5/2009

Drugs containing benadryl linked to slowed thinking, delirium in elderly, report finds,,

THURSDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) --Older people taking common over-the-counter drugs for pain, cold symptoms or help with sleep may increase their risk for cognitive impairment, including delirium, University of Indiana researchers report.

These drugs include Benadryl, Dramamine, Excedrin PM, Nytol, Sominex, Tylenol PM and Unisom.

All of these over-the-counter (OTC) drugs contain benadryl (diphenhydramine), a molecule that blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is essential for normal functioning of the central and peripheral nervous systems, the researchers explained.

"Before taking any medication prescribed by your doctor or an OTC medication, make sure there is no negative impact of this medication on your brain," said lead researcher Dr. Malaz Boustani.

His group analyzed data from 27 prior studies on the relationship between anticholinergic effects and brain function, as well as looking into anecdotal data. The team found a consistent link between anticholinergic effects and cognitive impairment in older adults.

"Any OTC medication with the term 'PM' will indicate the presence of benadryl, which is bad for the brain," Boustani concluded.

He noted that the effects of benadryl can add up, so the more medications you take that contain benadryl the worse it may be for cognition. "There is a relationship with the number of medications and the burden on your aging brain," the researcher said.

People aged 65 and older who take these medications also run the risk of developing delirium, Boustani said. Delirium is a decline in attention-focus, perception and cognition, or "acute brain failure," as Boustani calls it. Delirium typically increases the odds of dying or being institutionalized, he said.

In addition, taking these medications for 90 days or more may trip
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