The dreaded side effect of memory loss is possible with many common prescription drugs.
According to the AARP, the following 8 drugs and drug classes can cause memory loss.
Anti-anxiety medications can cause memory loss because they have a calming effect on certain areas of the brain. Most importantly, drug effects involve the transfer of events from short-term memory to long-term memory.
Midazolam in particular is believed to have severe amnestic properties.
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs
Statins and other high-cholesterol drugs lower cholesterol levels in the brain and blood, which can impair memory. Lipids in the blood are important for the formation of connections between neurons, the basis of memory and learning.
In 2012, the FDA changed the labeling of statins to indicate an increased risk of memory problems.
- Antiepileptic drugs
Anticonvulsants limit seizures by inhibiting the flow of signals within the central nervous system (CNS), which in turn can lead to memory loss.
- Narcotic pain relievers
Opioid pain relievers work by blocking the flow of pain signals in the central nervous system and suppressing the emotional response to pain, which increases the risk of memory loss.
- Dopamine agonists
These Parkinson’s drugs activate signaling pathways for the neurotransmitter dopamine, which plays a key role in brain functions such as motivation, pleasure, fine motor control, learning, and memory.
Because of this, dopamine agonists can cause significant side effects such as memory loss, confusion, delusions, and compulsive behaviors.
- Antihypertensive drugs
Beta-blockers are thought to cause memory problems by interfering with the main brain chemicals, norepinephrine and epinephrine.
These anticholinergics inhibit the action of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger that has many functions in the body, and can lead to memory loss.
The risk of memory loss and cognitive decline increases when patients take diuretics for a long time or when they are used with other anticholinergic drugs.
Similar to anti-allergy medications, these allergy medications block the action of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger that mediates many functions in the body.
In the brain, acetylcholine inhibits the activity of memory and learning centers, which can lead to memory loss.