The newsletter of the Memory Disorders Project at Rutgers University

Everyone would like to take a magic pill that makes memory work better. But what about pills that can make memory worse?

Many common medications have side effects that include possible memory impairments. The list of drugs known to cause such side effects is long, and includes both over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Examples include many widely used sleep aids, cardiac drugs, and anti-anxiety medications. Additionally, for people taking two or more drugs, there can be interactions: Sometimes, neither drug alone disrupts memory, but the combination might.

Does this mean that the way to a better memory is to stop taking all your medications? No! But there are some simple steps that could help:

  • Mention memory problems to your doctor. If one of your medications is known to cause memory impairment, then perhaps there is another, alternate drug available that can treat your existing medical problems without the unwanted side effect.
  • Make sure your doctor is aware of all the drugs you are taking. This includes prescription drugs, over the counter drugs (cold remedies, headache remedies, etc.), and also dietary supplements and vitamins - yes, these are drugs too!
  • Try to get all your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. This will help the pharmacist recognize any potentially problematic drug interactions. Today, many chain pharmacies have special computer programs to check for drug interactions.
  • Even without a magic pill to help you remember, better management of existing medications may be a simple and effective way to improve your memory.