While many people wonder if some medications are good for them, others don’t think twice about popping an Advil when their head starts hurting. Although it may be a surprise, some medicines can make you dumber. Some people say they don’t notice a difference, but the effects are pretty straightforward to measure for others. This article includes several common prescription drugs and over-the-counter remedies that may have this adverse effect.
Antihistamines that cause drowsiness are often for allergies and insomnia. Unfortunately, they can also cause cognitive impairment. The risk is greater with higher doses but even people taking recommended dosages experienced problems remembering things and concentrating. These symptoms can occur after using antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), bromodiphenhydramine (Dymenate), and carbinoxamine (Clistin). These drugs can also reduce alertness, causing falls and car accidents.
These medications also heighten the risk of suicide, so doctors usually start by prescribing them to patients with milder cases. Unfortunately, cognitive impairment, and suicidal thoughts, are dangerous for people with more severe depression with two side effects.
Common SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and paroxetine (Paxil). MAOIs include phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and isocarboxazid (Marplan).
Doctors usually prescribe fluoroquinolone antibiotics for urinary tract infections (UTIs), sinus infections, and respiratory conditions like pneumonia. Unfortunately, these drugs interfere with the brain’s cognitive functions, causing amnesia-like symptoms, including memory loss and reduced information processing speed.
Fluoroquinolones can also affect mood, causing depression and suicidal thoughts. Although these side effects are rare, they’re particularly dangerous to young people already at increased risk for suicide. Some fluoroquinolone antibiotics include ciprofloxacin (Cipro), levofloxacin (Levaquin), and moxifloxacin (Avelox).
Like antibiotics, the drugs that treat HIV and AIDS may cause significant cognitive impairment, including problems with memory and concentration. This is particularly true of protease inhibitors but also occurs with other antiretroviral drugs such as non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) and nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs).
Doctors usually prescribe antipsychotic drugs to patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe depression. Unfortunately, these medications can affect the brain adversely, causing symptoms similar to those with Alzheimer’s disease, including memory loss, confusion, emotional instability, and trouble concentrating. These symptoms are also associated with taking anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax because both affect neurotransmitters in the brain.
Typical antipsychotics include risperidone (Risperdal), olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), ziprasidone (Geodon), and clozapine (Clozaril).
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are standard to treat pain, but they can cause memory loss in some patients. The results may be particularly noticeable in older people with age-related memory problems. One study found that low doses of ibuprofen and naproxen improved cognitive function when taken after a stroke. However, when taken routinely, they could cause more damage than good by increasing the risk of dementia in people over 50 years old. The most common NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve).
Common anticoagulant medications prevent blood clotting by keeping blood from coagulating. Although these drugs keep people from forming dangerous blood clots, they can increase the risk of bleeding incidents, leading to anemia. Anticoagulants can also cause a reaction called Coumadin syndrome, a type of anticoagulant-induced thrombotic disorder that can cause severe bleeding and bruising.
Some common anticoagulants include dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, fondaparinux (Arixtra), and warfarin (Coumadin).
Birth Control Pills
Although birth control pills (oral contraceptives) can help regulate hormone levels and promote a sense of well-being, they also interfere with the regular activity of neurotransmitters in the brain. This may cause mood swings and memory loss or gain as well as headaches and dizziness. Some possible side effects include changes in appetite, such as weight gain or loss, migraines, and nausea. Common types of birth control pills include Ethinyl estradiol/drospirenone (Yasmin), Ethinyl estradiol/levonorgestrel (Alesse), norethindrone acetate/Ethinyl estradiol (Brevicon, Modicon), levonorgestrel/Ethinyl estradiol (Loestrin, Triphasil), norethindrone (Micronor, Nor-QD), and norgestimate/Ethinyl estradiol (Ortho-Cyclen).
Several medications make people dumber. Fortunately, knowing which ones they are can help you take measures to improve your cognitive function and avoid losing some of that all-important intelligence. Before you start taking some of these drugs, talk to your doctor. This can help you avoid these medications if they’re not suitable for you and find ones that do not affect your cognition.