Memory Loss: Is Your Medicine Cabinet to Blame?

Memory Loss Is Your Medicine Cabinet to Blame

Memory loss—it’s one of the most dreaded conditions in life. You may think genetics and aging are the only causes of memory problems. They’re not! Did you know that forgetfulness and fuzzy thinking might be linked to your medicine cabinet?

New research in the journal Neurology is revealing that taking a certain class of drugs called anticholinergics has been tied to problems with thinking and memory. There are about 100 types of anticholinergics, which are commonly used to treat high blood pressure, overactive bladder, motion sickness, Parkinson’s disease, and even the common cold.

The study found that people with no pre-existing cognitive issues who are taking at least one anticholinergic medication are 47% more likely to develop cognitive impairment. The risk is even higher among people with a genetic vulnerability for Alzheimer’s disease.

This is alarming news, but unfortunately, anticholinergics aren’t the only medication that has been associated with memory problems. A number of commonly used prescription and over-the-counter drugs are associated with memory loss.

A number of commonly used prescription and over-the-counter drugs are associated with memory loss. Click To Tweet


Anti-anxiety drugs

Anti-anxiety medications (such as Valium, Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin) are benzodiazepines that can be effective for acute anxiety when used on a short-term basis. However, brain SPECT imaging studies show that “benzos” decrease blood flow to the brain, reduce cerebral activity, and can cause memory problems and confusion.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs

About 20% of the body’s cholesterol is found in the brain, more than in any other organ. And the billions of nerve cells in the brain require essential fatty acids to communicate and function properly. When cholesterol levels in the brain are too low, it may impair connectivity, which is important for memory and learning. A 2018 review of existing studies on statins and memory loss have found conflicting results, but some show an association between the drugs and cognitive impairment.


A 2018 review in Behavioral Neurology found that in elderly people, taking antidepressants—especially tricyclic or MAOI types—is significantly associated with an increased risk of dementia.

Opioid painkillers

Long-term use of narcotic painkillers increases the risk of cognitive impairment, according to research in Pain Physician.

Sleep aids

Sleep drugs, such as Ambien and Lunesta, may reduce critical REM sleep and are associated with morning grogginess, brain fog, and memory issues.

General anesthesia

Research on the relationship between general anesthesia and memory problems is mixed, but a 2014 paper in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, found an increased risk of dementia in people with a history of general anesthesia. And a before-and-after SPECT study of patients who underwent coronary artery bypass surgery showed that 68% had diminished blood flow, which was linked to decreased verbal and visual memory 6 months later.


If you’re experiencing memory problems and are concerned it may be related to medication, be aware that there are natural alternatives to anti-anxiety pills, antidepressants, and sleep aids. Be sure to talk to your doctor before stopping any prescription drugs.

In the meantime, get serious about your brain health with memory-boosting lifestyle strategies, including:

It worked for Susan, an Amen Clinics patient who called in tears after knee surgery. She said she couldn’t think or remember and thought she was getting Alzheimer’s disease. Susan had already had a SPECT scan but felt like something had changed and asked for a follow-up scan. In her new scan, her brain looked toxic and was dramatically worse in her frontal lobes and temporal lobes, which are both involved in memory. It was clear that something bad had happened to her brain since her previous scan. However, by following the brain healthy regimen that is part of the Amen Clinics Memory Rescue program, her memory and thinking improved.

Yours can too.

Memory issues, as well as depression, anxiety, and ADD/ADHD, can’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental and cognitive well-being are more important than ever and waiting until life gets back to “normal” is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We have developed a proven Memory Rescue program We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.


  1. I have several conditions that have me on anxiety/depression medication as well as cholesterol. I am also on medications for finromyalgia, oipiods for chronic pain issues, diabetes and sleep medication and was on ambien for at least 5 years. i have asked my neurologist about thisand he just said due to medications I might be having memory problems and none of my doctors wants to take me off them. Any suggestions you can give me, I don’t have enough money for a brain scan. Thank you.

    Comment by Rae Michelle Cihalski — September 16, 2020 @ 3:59 AM

  2. As an addictions specialist, board certified and state-licensed, I agree with all of the aforementioned. I have read several of Dr Amen’s books and the benefits of a spect scan, exercise and a healthy diet are delineated nicely.

    Comment by D.J. Diebold — September 16, 2020 @ 6:08 AM

  3. You don’t write anything about the vaccines. What is their role in memory loss?

    Comment by Lilyana G Yordanova — September 16, 2020 @ 6:12 AM

  4. This is a poignant message to seniors who trust their doctors to prescribe a multitude of brain fogging drugs to the undereducated public.
    My husband started having memory issues…He was sneaking Lipitor every day…BECAUSE THE DOCTOR SAID TO….He has a tad above normal guidelines for cholesterol.At 78,it caused him to become very forgetful..
    His Mother had dementia. So,he thought that it was a prediction…
    He is off Lipitor.Detoxing with NAC and variuos brain boosters.
    His memory is back.He has regained his vibrancy and joie de vivre!!
    It definitely was an overdoe of cholesterol lowering medication.

    Comment by Susan — September 16, 2020 @ 6:15 AM

  5. I had a stroke in July 2019. I had a Pacemaker put in March 2020. I am now taking Zoloft, Eliquis and Atorvastatin along with my atenolol and candestartin. My memory has been affected since March. Are any of my drugs causing this?

    Comment by Ester Kagan — September 16, 2020 @ 7:23 AM

  6. What are current costs and locations for a SPECT scan? are there any cost discounts for seniors, etc?
    How to prepare and time for text, etc.

    Comment by Libby Espeseth — September 16, 2020 @ 8:27 AM

  7. What should we take instead of varian for sleep ?

    Comment by Donn — September 16, 2020 @ 9:56 PM

  8. I’m taking lots of medications. I take colestipol for a condition not related to high colesteral. Lots of others I’m not happy with. Can you email me and set up a time to talk?I’m

    Comment by Laura Whigham — September 17, 2020 @ 6:55 AM

  9. Which blood pressure medicines are dangerous ? Currently taking Linsopril.

    Comment by jack parrillo — September 17, 2020 @ 12:57 PM

  10. I am a Healthcare Professional myself, testing my patients Cognitive Function, & I had a adverse reaction to a statin with functional memory loss. When the Lord told me it was the new medication, He led me to associate it with a scripture of Moses hitting the Rock instead of speaking to it, (so disobedient) & I asked Him to forgive me and allow me to get to the Promised Land (not even knowing what that was!) I went up in church for prayer and asked one doctor what could build that cholesterol back up in my brain, and the Lord healed my brain better than before and I started to understand much more of the Scriptures to deepen my relationship with Him thanks to my pastors mentoring me & Praise God for using Amen Clinics to help us sheep!

    Comment by Peach Knaut — September 19, 2020 @ 4:07 AM

  11. Thank you! your web information is so affirming and instructional. After reacting to prescription drugs almost 18 years ago resulted in brain injury, I listen (read) carefully everything on your posts. I bought a farm a year ago and am WORKING physcially every day- sunup to almost sundown. I have muscles I never have seen before and am stronger than ever. AND off of antidepressants, sleep soundly, eat like a horse, and am totally enjoying life–even with family dyfunctions. Keep up the great work! Thank you especially for introducing me to Jim Kwik. and on line meditations. God bless you and your team in helping others restore their brains and bodies, relationships and soul. JuliaAnn

    Comment by Julia Ann Odom — September 20, 2020 @ 9:26 AM

  12. Hello Libby, thank you for reaching out. We currently have 8 locations ( and our Care Coordinators can review cost, any possible discounts, and financing options with you. To contact us directly, please visit

    Comment by Amen Clinics — September 20, 2020 @ 7:23 PM

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