Just because they don’t require a prescription doesn’t mean over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are safe. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, some OTC drugs and sleep aids can cause long-term brain damage. These drugs are known as anticholinergics. They block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, and can result in long-term cognitive impairment such as dementia.
Examples of Harmful Anticholinergic Drugs
Dr. Mercola, who worked as a full-time pharmacy apprentice in the 1970’s, said that over-the-counter drugs used to be carefully monitored prescription drugs. Now, Motrin, the first non-salicylate prescription NSAID, is an OTC ibuprofen. Anti-ulcer drugs, such as Prilosec, Tagamet, and Zantec were also controlled, but are now available in smaller, “OTC strengths.” This results in almost double the amount of pills needed.
Anticholinergic drugs are now available as prescription or OTC. They come as antihistamines, pain relievers, and sleep aids. Here are some examples.
- Tylenol PM
- Excedrin PM
Medications to control incontinence, antidepressants, and other narcotic pain relievers are also found to have anticholinergic effects. These include Elavil, Demerol, Paxil and Detrol.
Dr. Mercola has long discussed the dangers of these drugs in his natural health news articles. He has revealed that Sominex and Benadryl can cause hallucinations among elderly people. Paxil, an addictive antidepressant, is known to increase suicidal tendencies among teens and children, and intensify violent behavior as well.
Many of the drugs mentioned also promote tooth decay.
OTC Drugs Can Give You Dementia
Dr. Mercola divulges that the most troubling effect of anticholinergics is brain damage. In a study by the University of Michigan, almost 50% of people age 85 had dementia, while 60% of these individuals advance to Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers tracked the anticholinergic drug intake and then followed the cognitive abilities of 1,652 African Americans aged 70 and up, for six years. 11% of these participants used “definitive anticholinergics,” while 53% used possible anticholinergics. The results showed that those who took “definitive anticholinergics” had a four times higher rate of cognitive impairment.
If these two drugs are taken, the risk of cognitive impairment also rises.
A Good Reason to Avoid Sleeping Pills
Americans are spending a lot of money on sleeping pills. A study reveals that $600 million was spent on OTC sleep aids in 2008, and more than 56 million Americans have used prescriptions for sleeping pills.
The most disturbing news is that these drugs actually cause more harm than good. In a health update from CBC News, it was reported that sleep aids like Tylenol PM and Excedrin PM don’t offer any benefits to patients. This news came from 15 years’ worth of data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Sleeping pills like Lunesta, Sonata, and Ambien lowered the average time to go to sleep by less than 13 minutes, compared with fake pills. When they took the pill, the participants believed they had slept an hour longer. Dr. Mercola reports that this may be a sign of anterograde amnesia. This condition causes trouble with memory formation. Sleeping pill users simply forget that they had been unable to sleep when they wake up.
Some sleeping pills also have peculiar effects. Ambien makes you want to eat while you’re sleeping, and also increases your risk of getting in traffic accidents. It’s included in the top 10 drugs found in bloodstreams of impaired drivers.
There are sleeping pills that increase nighttime falls and injuries among elderly people. Those who take these pills wake up drowsy if the drug’s effects haven’t worn off yet.
Avoidance is still the best solution. There are natural ways to get a good night’s sleep without having to use sleeping pills. Dr. Mercola’s 33 Secrets for a Good Night’s Sleep can give you some pointers. Exercising, lessening stress, and calming activities such as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can help you unwind and lead to better sleep.
Another Stunning Revelation: These Drugs May Also Contain Aspartame
The medications above are included in a list of drugs that contain diphenhydramine. Such drugs, as well as chewable tablets and those that disintegrate rapidly, are sweetened with aspartame.
Dr. Mercola has made it very clear that aspartame is a toxic sweetener and can pose various health problems. You should avoid these drugs and other types of aspartame-sweetened foods and drinks, especially if you have the genetic disease, phenylketonuria (PKU). This can help you prevent mental retardation.
Instead of using OTC drugs, stick to natural treatments, to stay away harmful and long-term effects.
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