Check the Medicine Cabinet: The Side Effects of These Drugs Can Mimic Dementia

Check the Medicine Cabinet: The Side Effects of These Drugs Can Mimic Dementia

Disorientation. Confusion.. Memory loss. While these are definitely hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease as well as other types of dementia, they may also come about from taking specific medications. Rather than immediately assuming an inevitable diagnosis of dementia, review the following list of prescribed medicines which can cause similar adverse effects.

Pain Medications

Opioids in particular are reported to affect short-term memory. The good news is that the problem is commonly remedied once pain medicines are no longer being taken.

Acetylcholine Blockers

Prescribed to treat IBS, insomnia, urinary incontinence, depression, heart issues, vertigo, Parkinson’s, and other conditions, medications with anticholinergic effects that block acetylcholine’s effects in the brain may cause memory disturbance, confusion, agitation, and delirium, among other significant health conditions. An example is tolteridine. 


These medications help treat both anxiety and insomnia, with sedative qualities that can also cause cognitive problems. Long-term use of benzodiazepines can also be a risk factor for developing dementia. Examples include lorazepam (Ativan) and temazepam (Restoril).


Mood and cognitive changes, psychotic symptoms, and delirium are just some of the complications connected to corticosteroid use. One of the most common examples is prednisone.

Chemotherapy Medications

Referred to as “chemo brain,” chemotherapy drugs impact some individuals in the areas of memory, focus and attention, and executive functioning. These changes can be long-lasting, even after finishing chemo treatment.


Prescribed to reduce cholesterol, statins have a suspected link to memory and mental slowing and decline. While there are inconsistent results from various studies, it is important to be aware of the possibility for cognitive complications.

It's also important to remember that many prescription medications impact seniors differently than those who are younger. This may be due to some extent to the decreased efficiency in an older person’s kidneys and liver, as well as interactions with other medications being taken and a reduced cognitive reserve in the brain. Complications can also be further exacerbated by alcohol use. 

Make sure to speak with the physician before starting, stopping, or changing any medication, and about whether any cognitive complications you are observing in an older adult could be the result of a medicine.

The Windsor, Ontario home care professionals at Amy’s Helping Hands are also readily available to assist seniors in a variety of ways – medication reminders to make certain meds are taken just as prescribed, transportation to doctors’ appointments, picking up prescriptions, and watching for any changes in condition and reporting them immediately, just to name a few. Contact us online or at 519-915-4370 for assistance any time and to find out if our services are available in your area.