A startling number of drugs can cause Alzheimer's symptoms and lead to misdiagnosis

I have my stories. I’m sure you have yours.

Almost all of us have seen, first hand, the dreadful effects of Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s a sobering thought that any one of us might go down that road.

Sadly, many will. But new research offers hope. Not because of a breakthrough drug. Just the opposite.

In a large number of cases, the solution lies in removing drugs.

Shadow crisis

Recently, I told you about the acetaminophen link.

About 15 years ago, researchers investigating arthritis pain relievers noticed a sharp increase in Alzheimer’s risk among frequent acetaminophen users.

That’s staggering when you consider this… In a recent survey, one in five people said they were “heavy users” of the drug. Many said they took it every day.

If the dementia danger were ONLY in acetaminophen, that would be a crisis. But according to a new Wall St. Journal report, it’s just one link in a long chain.

Make that a VERY long chain. More than 100 drugs can mimic dementia.

With some of these drugs, there’s no surprise. They have a direct effect on the brain. Several sleep aids, tranquilizers, painkillers, anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety drugs made the list. But also included are drugs for incontinence, acid-reflux, blood pressure, stomach upset, and antihistamines.

One geriatric psychiatrist told WSJ that cognitive symptoms “vanish” in many cases when medication is stopped. He added… “I have had people referred to me with a clear history of dementia and when I started to peel back the medications, they were much better.”

Another specialist put it more bluntly… “Every Alzheimer’s expert living today has been fooled.”

He’s not exaggerating. One recent study found that as many as 30% of Alzheimer’s patients may be misdiagnosed.

We can only hope this message is getting through to doctors. And that’s especially important for geriatric specialists. Many of these M.D.s are much too eager to pull out the prescription pad to treat every ailment.

The result is a nation of seniors who dutifully count out their pills every day. And they HAVE to take them. Doctor’s orders! And when the inevitable first signs of dementia creep in, their adult children just shake their heads and chalk it up to old age.

Tell everyone you know — especially if they’re getting on in years. Very few people need a handful of drugs to get through their days. Reduce the pill count, and the mind may become clear again.

“Detective Work: The False Alzheimer’s Diagnosis” Melinda Beck, Wall St. Journal, 8/27/12, online.wsj.com

“Is Alzheimer’s Disease Caused by Paracetamol?” Walter Last, Nexus, February-March 2011, nexusmagazine.com

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