Senior Lifestyles: Time to review the medicines you take

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, April 24, 2018

This is my second article on America’s drug culture and problem.

If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the news, you know that America has a serious and growing drug problem.

Have you noticed the number of drug commercials on TV? That’s part of the problem.

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Americans see an ad and think that the latest new medication for their ailment or condition is better than what they currently take. Sadly, many doctors are too willing to accommodate requests for new medications, and don’t always pay attention to details like contraindications or possible side effects of a new or recently added drug.

Seniors take a lot of prescription drugs, and while doing so may be what’s keeping them going and healthy, it may also be contributing to some problems. If you take prescription drugs, it might be a good idea to look at the drugs you’re taking and spend a few minutes on the computer looking at the side effects of your drugs in detail, as well as any warnings about mixing certain prescriptions.

In otherwise healthy individuals, anti-anxiety benzodiazepines like Atavan and Xanax, sleep aids like Ambian, and incontinence drugs like Ditropan and Detrol to name but a few, may impact memory loss in older adults. In Alzheimer’s patients, the results can be devastating, with as much as a 50 percent higher rate of cognitive decline occurring due to use of those drugs.

Opioids, often prescribed for pain management, are another addictive and memory impacting problem facing seniors. Oxycodene, also known as Oxycontin, is a brain altering drug, and is also one of the most preferred street drugs among younger people. 

The problems is simple. “Oxy” in any form is addictive; it’s a narcotic, and while it stops most pain in users, it slows down the brain’s reaction time for driving, memory recall, clear thinking and has other side effects, which can be deadly as with many prescription drugs, if for instance is taken along with alcohol.

According to the American Journal of Public Health, 1 in 20 adults fill a prescription for benzodiazepines to treat conditions such as anxiety mood disorders and insomnia, and while considered safe and effective for short term use, “benzos” can become highly addictive. In addition, some of their common daytime side effects include drowsiness and a “hung-over feeling” that increases the risk of automobile accidents.

They can also make breathing problems worse, and can lead to falls in the elderly.

Here is a list of the types of conditions for which these drugs are commonly taken to treat the problem, but may also cause or exacerbate memory loss: anti-anxiety drugs, cholesterol drugs, anti-seizure drugs, anti-depressant drugs, narcotic painkillers, Parkinson’s drugs, hypertension drugs, sleeping aids, incontinence drugs and antihistamines.

The simple conclusion that we may draw from this information is that if you’re seeing signs or symptoms of increased medical or health issues, the problem may be too many drugs, or negative drug interactions.

A review of your prescription medications by a pharmacist or your doctor may result in a reduction of the number of pills you take, and may also improve your health.

Ron Kauffman is a consultant & expert speaker on issues of aging. His wife’s geriatric management practice serves clients in Henderson, Polk and Brevard counties. He is the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease,” available as a Kindle book on He and his wife may be contacted at 828-696-9799 or by email at