Effects from These Common Medications Can Mimic Dementia


Patients should educate themselves on medication side effects and speak with their physician to discern side effects from dementia symptoms.

Confusion. Disorientation. Memory loss. While these are certainly hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease along with other types of dementia, there are side effects from some commonly prescribed medications can mimic dementia. Before immediately assuming an inevitable diagnosis of dementia, examine the following list of prescribed medicines that can cause similar adverse effects.

Common Medications That Can Mimic Dementia

Pain Medications

Opioids in particular are reported to affect short-term memory. The good news is that the issue is typically remedied once pain medications are no longer being taken.

Acetylcholine Blockers

Prescribed by doctors to treat IBS, insomnia, bladder control problems, depression, heart disease, Parkinson’s, vertigo, and other conditions, treatments with anticholinergic effects that block acetylcholine’s effects in the brain can cause memory disturbance, agitation, confusion, and delirium, among other serious health problems. One example of a commonly prescribed acetylcholine blocker is tolteridine.


These medications help treat both anxiety and insomnia, with sedative qualities that may also cause cognitive problems. Long-term usage of benzodiazepines may also be a risk factor for developing dementia. Examples include lorazepam (Ativan) and temazepam (Restoril).


Mood and cognitive changes, delirium, and psychotic symptoms are just some of the complications related to corticosteroid use. One of the most common examples is prednisone.

Chemo Medications

Commonly called “chemo brain,” chemotherapy drugs impact some individuals in the areas of memory, focus and attention, and executive functioning. These changes might persist, even after stopping chemo treatment.


Statins, prescribed to lower cholesterol, have a suspected link to memory and mental slowing and decline. While there are inconsistent results from a variety of scientific studies, it’s important to be aware of the possibility for cognitive complications.

It’s also essential to remember that many prescription medications impact older adults differently than those who are younger. This may be partially due to the reduced efficiency in an older person’s kidneys and liver, in addition to interactions with other medications being taken and a decreased cognitive reserve in the brain. Complications can be further exacerbated by alcohol use.

Be sure to speak with the physician before starting, stopping, or changing any medication, and discuss whether any cognitive complications you’re witnessing in a senior could be the result of taking a prescribed medication.

CareWorks Health Services is readily available to assist seniors in many ways – medication reminders to ensure meds are taken as prescribed, picking up prescriptions, transportation to doctors’ appointments, and monitoring for any changes in condition and reporting any concerns, just to name a few. An individualized plan of care will ensure seniors receive as much help as needed while maintaining independence at home. Reach out to us at (949) 859-4700 to learn more about our home care in Orange County and surrounding areas. See our full service area to find care professionals in your community.


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