Memory Loss & Prescription Drugs - Memory Health: Al...

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Memory Loss & Prescription Drugs


A number of prescription drugs, especially in combination with each other, can cause memory loss symptoms. Readers who experience signs of memory loss with any of the medications listed below should contact their physician for a possible drug interaction-memory loss evaluation.

(Original article:

Benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety, sedative)

Common prescriptions include: Alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), flurazepam (Dalmane), lorazepam (Ativan), midazolam (Versed), quazepam (Doral), temazepam (Restoril) and triazolam (Halcion)

Tricyclic antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants were initially developed in the 1950s. They are now commonly prescribed for other conditions such as chronic pain and eating disorders.

Common prescriptions include: Amitriptyline (Elavil), clomipramine (Anafranil), desipramine (Norpramin), doxepin (Sinequan), imipramine (Tofranil), nortriptyline (Pamelor), protriptyline (Vivactil) and trimipramine (Surmontil)


Common medications include: diphenhydramine (Benadryl),brompheniramine (Dimetane), carbinoxamine (Clistin), chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), clemastine (Tavist), and hydroxyzine (Vistaril)

Newer-generation antihistamines such as loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec) tend to have fewer side effects related to memory impairment.

Anticholinergics (for incontinence, overactive bladder)

Common prescriptions include: Darifenacin (Enablex), oxybutynin (Ditropan XL, Gelnique, Oxytrol), solifenacin (Vesicare), tolterodine (Detrol) and trospium (Sanctura)

Special note: Long term use of anticholinergics in older adults can significantly increase the probability of cognitive impairment and memory loss symptoms. See Ref 1, below.

Narcotic painkillers (opioids)

Common prescriptions include: Fentanyl (Duragesic), hydrocodone (Norco, Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo), morphine (Astramorph, Avinza) and oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)

See this detailed article on the dangers of long term opioid use:

Sleep aids (hypnotic, sedative)

Common prescriptions include: Eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata) and zolpidem (Ambien)

A Comment on Statin Drugs

While anecdotal stories have frequently appeared in the media regarding memory loss symptoms being linked to statin drug use, the research evidence is weak and tenuous at best. Potential adverse effects might be resolved by switching from lipophilic to hydrophilic statins. See Ref 2 & 3 below.

Ref 1. Campbell N, Boustani M, et al. The cognitive impact of anticholinergics: a clinical review. Clin Interv Aging. 2009;4:225-33. Review. PubMed PMID: 19554093

Ref 2.Rojas-Fernandez CH, Cameron JC. Is statin-associated cognitive impairment clinically relevant? A narrative review and clinical recommendations. Ann Pharmacother. 2012 Apr;46(4):549-57. doi: 10.1345/aph.1Q620. Review. PubMed PMID: 22474137

Ref 3. Glasser SP, Wadley V, et al. The association of statin use and statin type and cognitive performance: analysis of the reasons for geographic and racial differences in stroke (REGARDS) study. Clin Cardiol. 2010 May;33(5):280-8. doi:10.1002/clc.20758. PubMed PMID: 20513066

4 Replies

I am on a fair bit of medication for depression but I am thankful that I am not using any of the above. Thank you for your continued information. Marilyn K.

Thank you for this. I had been taking Tylenol PM every night for a very long time. Since I have begun showing symptoms of mild cognitive impairment and doing research for myself...I stopped taking the OTC. Medication Tylenol PM. (the Tylenol has dyphenhydramine) so it's Tylenol with benadril. Since stopping my overt memory problems are diminishing.

I had spoken to my Dr abt it prior to being dianosed, but no one thought there was any problem with my long term use of the Tylenol PM.

Does anyone know of similar associated problems with cognition and long term consumption of artificial sweetners? I have also stopped consuming diet beverages and anything with artificial sweeteners.

I have also begun seeing a naturopath and been clearing these additives from my body.

I've been prescribed a lot of these meds by doctors and I've had significant issues with my memory. It makes me really angry that I have so much trouble with it now. Is it possible that my memory can improve now that I'm no longer taking those medications? Or has the damage already been done and now my memory will forever be impaired?

I was taking 0 .25 mg. of Xanax to sleep and could feel cognitive impairment and went off. I am feeling better. What about the one baby aspirin a day doctors are prescribing as a preventative measure? I have been taking that over a year as well, both prescribed by my doctor because I had had a TIA.