Medications for memory loss

Published 10:25 am Wednesday, October 12, 2022

It is typical for people to have mild memory lapses over time. This is age-related and should not cause concern. However, people with memory loss experiencing greater than expected levels of forgetfulness may have difficulty with both short and long-term memory recall. When that happens and affects a person’s daily activities, it’s time to contact a doctor to discuss their symptoms and how their memory loss affects them.


In addition to diseases like dementia, primarily seen as Alzheimer’s disease, there are other causes for memory loss including aging, certain medications, head trauma, alcohol use disorder, vitamin B-12 deficiency, stress, depression and sleep deprivation. 

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox


Signs and symptoms of memory loss may vary but often include one or more of the following: getting lost in familiar places, asking the same questions repeatedly, having difficulty following instructions and directions, taking much longer to complete everyday tasks, difficulty remembering names and faces of close friends and family members, mixing up words during conversations, inability to take care of oneself by eating a diet lacking in nutrition, not bathing, and behaving unsafely. 


As for medications, if you watch TV, you’ve no doubt seen ads about improving memory. If you’re not skeptical about those, you should be.  There is no drug treatment today that can effectively cure memory loss. The National Institute of Aging Trusted Source states, “…that people should avoid any treatment that promises to restore brain function and improve memory… some of these medications are unsafe and can cause negative drug interactions with other medications.” 


There are legitimate medications, such as cholinesterase inhibitors and glutamate regulators, that are used to treat memory loss. They can help manage a person’s memory loss symptoms and modify the progression of their condition, but they don’t always work, and in some cases, may not be well tolerated by the patient taking them.


The complexity of our brains makes finding a cause and cure for memory loss difficult. There are medications available that in some cases slows the rate of memory loss, these are what are called cholinesterase inhibitors which manage various conditions affecting memory, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.


These inhibitors work by blocking the enzyme cholinesterase from breaking down acetylcholine, a chemical messenger that plays a vital role in memory and learning. Many scientists believe that increasing the levels of acetylcholine in the brain can help maintain memory and delay, but not stop worsening symptoms. Some examples of cholinesterase inhibitors include the drugs donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon) and galantamine (Razadyne). Other drugs such as memantine (Namenda), which has minimal side effects, may be also prescribed alone or in conjunction with Aricept to slow nerve cell death and help slow the progression of memory loss.


If you or someone you know is experiencing any of those symptoms, it is a good idea to see a geriatric neurologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of memory loss. S/he will evaluate a person’s symptoms and determine the best treatment for his or her level of memory loss.


Ron Kauffman is a Consultant & Expert Speaker on Issues of Aging. You may contact him by phone at (828) 696-9799 or by email at: