Memory loss is not always a result of ageing.
Here are five types of drugs that can affect memory.
1. Antidepressants (tricyclic)
The older type of antidepressants — known as tricyclics — have been linked to memory loss.
Some of the drug names include:
- desipramine (Norpramin),
- imipramine (Tofranil),
- clomipramine (Anafranil),
- and doxepin (Sinequan).
Around half of people taking them report problems concentrating and one-third say they have memory loss.
2. Anxiety drugs
Benzodiazepines include drugs marketed under the names Valium, Ativan, Klonopin and Xanax.
These drugs are often prescribed for anxiety and other mental health issues such as OCD, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Unfortunately they are also linked to memory loss and even Alzheimer’s.
Dr Helene Alphonso, a psychiatrist and Director of Osteopathic Medical Education at Texas University, said:
“Current research is extremely clear and physicians need to partner with their patients to move them into therapies, like [modern] anti-depressants, that are proven to be safer and more effective.”
Statins are prescribed to many people to keep their cholesterol in a safer range.
The Food and Drug Administration lists memory loss, forgetfulness and confusion as possible side-effects of the drug.
Some people do report memory problems when taking them, but the studies conducted so far are inconclusive.
- Atorvastatin (Lipitor),
- lovastatin (Mevacor),
- fluvastatin (Lescol),
- and pravastatin (Pravachol).
Beta-blockers slow the heart rate and are used to lower blood pressure.
They are also prescribed to those with congestive heart problems.
Typical names include:
- Carvedilol (Coreg),
- atenolol (Tenormin),
- metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol),
- and propranolol (Inderal),
Beta-blockers, though, may also cause the loss of emotional memories.
They have even been tested as a way of treating post-traumatic stress disorder because of their ability to block emotional memories.
Again, though, the studies are not conclusive.
4. Sleeping aids
People who cannot sleep are sometimes prescribed so-called ‘Z-drugs’.
- Zolpidem (Ambien),
- eszopiclone (Lunesta),
- and zaleplon (Sonata).
The ‘Z-drugs’ have been linked to memory loss: especially losing the ability to make new memories.
They have also been reported to cause strange behaviours like driving or cooking with absolutely no memory of the event.
What are the alternatives?
Where possible consider a psychological therapy or applicable alternative to using these drugs.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Naturally, you should always consult your physician before making changes to your medication.