A number of prescription drugs, especially in combination with each other, can cause memory loss symptoms. Readers who experience signs of memory loss with any of the medications listed below should contact their physician for a possible drug interaction-memory loss evaluation.
Benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety, sedative)
Common prescriptions include: Alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), flurazepam (Dalmane), lorazepam (Ativan), midazolam (Versed), quazepam (Doral), temazepam (Restoril) and triazolam (Halcion)
Tricyclic antidepressants were initially developed in the 1950s. They are now commonly prescribed for other conditions such as chronic pain and eating disorders.
Common prescriptions include: Amitriptyline (Elavil), clomipramine (Anafranil), desipramine (Norpramin), doxepin (Sinequan), imipramine (Tofranil), nortriptyline (Pamelor), protriptyline (Vivactil) and trimipramine (Surmontil)
Common medications include: diphenhydramine (Benadryl),brompheniramine (Dimetane), carbinoxamine (Clistin), chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), clemastine (Tavist), and hydroxyzine (Vistaril)
Newer-generation antihistamines such as loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec) tend to have fewer side effects related to memory impairment.
Anticholinergics (for incontinence, overactive bladder)
Common prescriptions include: Darifenacin (Enablex), oxybutynin (Ditropan XL, Gelnique, Oxytrol), solifenacin (Vesicare), tolterodine (Detrol) and trospium (Sanctura)
Special note: Long term use of anticholinergics in older adults can significantly increase the probability of cognitive impairment and memory loss symptoms. See Ref 1, below.
Narcotic painkillers (opioids)
Common prescriptions include: Fentanyl (Duragesic), hydrocodone (Norco, Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo), morphine (Astramorph, Avinza) and oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
Sleep aids (hypnotic, sedative)
Common prescriptions include: Eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata) and zolpidem (Ambien)
A Comment on Statin Drugs
While anecdotal stories have frequently appeared in the media regarding memory loss symptoms being linked to statin drug use, the research evidence is weak and tenuous at best. Potential adverse effects might be resolved by switching from lipophilic to hydrophilic statins. See Ref 2 & 3 below.
Ref 1. Campbell N, Boustani M, et al. The cognitive impact of anticholinergics: a clinical review. Clin Interv Aging. 2009;4:225-33. Review. PubMed PMID: 19554093
Ref 2.Rojas-Fernandez CH, Cameron JC. Is statin-associated cognitive impairment clinically relevant? A narrative review and clinical recommendations. Ann Pharmacother. 2012 Apr;46(4):549-57. doi: 10.1345/aph.1Q620. Review. PubMed PMID: 22474137
Ref 3. Glasser SP, Wadley V, et al. The association of statin use and statin type and cognitive performance: analysis of the reasons for geographic and racial differences in stroke (REGARDS) study. Clin Cardiol. 2010 May;33(5):280-8. doi:10.1002/clc.20758. PubMed PMID: 20513066