“An anticholinergic agent is a substance that blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the central and the peripheral nervous system. Anticholinergics inhibit parasympathetic nerve impulses by selectively blocking the binding of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine to its receptor in nerve cells.”
Ok what that means is that they interfere with the ability of acetylcholine (Ach), which is a crucial brain chemical essential for muscle contraction to attach to nerve cells. Without enough of this neurotransmitter you could not breathe, blink your eyes or tie your shoes. Body movement can only happen when ACh triggers a muscular contraction. It’s also critical for transmitting messages between brain cells and so without adequate amounts you would become confused and forgetful.
So we can agree hindering the action of this brain chemical is NOT a good idea. So what exactly are these drugs?
Some of the most common OTC anticholinergic drugs include Benadryl, Chlor-Trimeton, Sominex, Xanax, Ativan, Valium, Luminal, Skelaxin, Limbitrol, and Tavist. Of course the list of prescription drugs of this category is much longer.
“Anticholinergic side effects can cause physical as well as mental impairment. Often, these side effects may be disregarded as temporary, minor side effects of a medication or a result of a patient’s preexisting condition. Taken as a whole, however, anticholinergic side effects can seriously impair a patient.”
For instance, one study revealed that people taking at least 4 mg/day of Chlor-Trimeton for more than three years would be at greater risk for developing dementia.
According to Dr. Gray, who is a professor, the vice chair of curriculum and instruction, and director of the geriatric pharmacy program at the UW School of Pharmacy: “If providers need to prescribe a medication with anticholinergic effects because it is the best therapy for their patient, they should use the lowest effective dose, monitor the therapy regularly to ensure it’s working, and stop the therapy if it’s ineffective.”
So the biggest problem with regularly taking these drugs is increasing the risk of developing dementia.
Is that risk acceptable to you?
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