Cognitive impairment can result when older adults are taking or given medications with strong anticholinergic effects, a new study has found. 

Anticholinergic drugs block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, and seniors often use sleep aids or bladder leakage drugs that have anticholinergic effects. Drugs with high levels of anticholinergic effects include Benadryl, Paxil, oxybutynin and Seroquel.

The study, which involved 3,690 older adults, is the first to look at how length of use impacts the brain.

Researchers at the Regenstrief Institute, the Indiana University Center for Aging Research and Wishard-Eskenazi Health found that even just 60 days of using a strong anticholinergic medication is enough to cause memory problems and other indicators of mild cognitive impairment.

Drugs with anticholinergic effects also are prescribed for many chronic diseases, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Additional medications with anticholinergics can be found on the Aging Brain Care website. The study was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, and funded by the National Institute on Aging.