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“Common Drugs May Mimic Dementia”

Older people often take multiple medications, and this can spell trouble for dementia patients. Dementia is increasing at an alarming rate. Alzheimer disease and other dementias are notoriously challenging to treat. While some drugs may slow cognitive deterioration, none will reverse the condition. Approximately 6 million Americans have dementia and nearly a half-million new Alzheimer’s cases will be diagnosed annually. A 2020 report in The Lancet estimates that roughly 50 million people around the world live with dementia. Dementia, which is not technically a disease but a term for impaired ability to think, remember or make decisions, is one of the most feared impairments of old age. About 5% of those age 71 to 79 have dementia, and about 37% of those about 90 years old live with it. We now know that many common drugs may lead to side effects that mimic dementia symptoms, making it even more difficult to diagnose and treat. Last year, several physicians described dementia patients whose increasing levels of confusion appeared to have been caused by a litany of medications they’d been prescribed. The phenomenon, known as “medication fog,” may be a bigger problem than we had thought. An estimated 91% of people over the age of 65 take at least one prescribed medication, and 41% use five or more, which doctors refer to as “polypharmacy.”

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