(Acetylcholine helps the gut keep things moving.) 4. In older adults, these are usually prescribed to manage difficult behaviors related to Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
(In a minority of seniors, they are prescribed for serious mental illness such as schizophrenia.
Aside from affecting thinking, these drugs can potentially worsen balance.
First among them: identify medications that make brain function worse. Identifying and reducing such medications is a mainstay of geriatrics practice.
And the expert authors of the National Academy of Medicine report on Cognitive Aging agree: in their Action Guide for Individuals and Families, they list “Manage your medications” among their “Top 3 actions you can take to help protect your cognitive health as you age.” Unfortunately, many older adults are unaware of this recommendation.
Below, I share the most commonly used drugs that you should look out for if you are worried about memory problems. They do work well for this purpose, but they are habit-forming and have been associated with developing dementia. These have been shown in clinical studies to impair thinking — and balance! This means they have the opposite effect of an Alzheimer’s drug like donepezil (brand name Aricept), which is a cholinesterase inhibitor, meaning it inhibits the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine.
A 2015 study found that greater use of these drugs was linked to a higher chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
(With time and regular use, people develop tolerance so they are less drowsy, but seems there can still be an effect on thinking.) As far as I know, opiates are not thought to accelerate long-term cognitive decline.