Health

Studies Link Long-Term Use Of Allergy Medicine To Mental Illness

by Leo Shvedsky

February 13, 2017

One of the most popular over-the-counter drugs in the world is linked to dementia in a new study, which warns against long-term or heavy use of the drug.

Diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl has been linked to dementia and impaired cognitive function in a recent study published by Indiana University, which warns, “the researchers found lower metabolism and reduced brain sizes among study participants taking the drugs.”

Benadryl is one of the most common drugs taken to treat allergies but is also commonly administered as a sleep aid. It comes packaged in the near-universally recognized pink box and has bee a life saver for millions of consumers around the world. The company hasn’t yet publicly responded to the study results.

“These findings provide us with a much better understanding of how this class of drugs may act upon the brain in ways that might raise the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia,” said Shannon Risacher, Ph.D., assistant professor of radiology and imaging sciences, and author of the study. “Given all the research evidence, physicians might want to consider alternatives to anticholinergic medications if available when working with their older patients.”

Those results match up with another study published in 2015 by the University of Washington.

(Dr. Shannon Risacher/University of Indiana)

This doesn’t mean taking drugs like Benadryl is unsafe, but researchers say people should avoid taking them as a long-term treatment for sleep issues. They also warn that doctors prescribing the drug should recommend patients take it in the lowest dose possible. Other common drugs diphenhydramine appears in, include Demerol, Dimetapp, Dramamine, Paxil, Unisom and VESIcare, according to CNN.

“No one should stop taking any therapy without consulting their health care provider,” said Dr. Shelly Gray, author of the University of Washington study. “Health care providers should regularly review their older patients’ drug regimens—including over-the-counter medications—to look for chances to use fewer anticholinergic medications at lower doses.”

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