Prescription and over-the-counter medications are useful for many maladies, from aches and pains to diabetes to heart conditions. Unfortunately, the very medications that treat one problem can affect the body in ways that lead to other issues. There is so much focus today on the problems of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and the plain old brain fog that seems to accompany aging. Therefore, it is helpful to know which medications might also affect the brain and memory. If you notice memory issues and are taking any of the medications on this list, be sure to talk with your physician. Your doctor can advise you as to whether or not they could be triggering or worsening any of your memory issues.
The same drug that kills off the bacteria causing a raging infection can also affect your brain cells. A certain class of antibiotics, called fluoroquinolones, may lead to impaired mental function. The Food and Drug Administration has increased warning label requirements on these drugs. which include medications such as levofloxacin (Levaquin), ciprofloxacin (Cipro), and moxifloxacin (Avelox). These labels must now warn of mental health side effects, including decreased attention span, agitation, confusion, and memory loss. The negative effects of these drugs on memory join other adverse effects on joints and tendons. For some patients, the risk is worth the benefit when treating some bacterial infections.
Tricyclic antidepressants include medications like amitriptyline (Elavil), clomipramine (Anafranil), desipramine (Norpramin), and nortriptyline (Pamelor). These medications treat depression by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin available in the brain. Increased levels of these brain chemicals relieve depression, but they can increase fatigue, confusion, and memory function. While many patients find these medications to be helpful in treating their depression, there are other treatment options available with less risk to memory function.