Recent studies on the popular drug sold under the brand name Benadryl, otherwise known by its generic name diphenhydramine, show chronic use may lead to the development of dementia. The report, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), centered on a study conducted at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy which tracked approximately 3500 men and women 65 years or older for an average of seven years. The pharmacy records for the past ten years of each participant were analyzed at the start of the survey to find possible associations for health conditions acquired during the study period. During this observational period, approximately 800 of the participants were found to have developed dementia, and this same group of 800 participants was found to have had the highest use of anticholinergic drugs within the past ten years. Additionally, the dementia risk increased with the cumulative increase in anticholinergic drug use.

Benadryl, or diphenhydramine, belongs to a class of drugs known as anticholinergic and antihistamine. Benadryl works to combat allergies by blocking histamine, a molecule that signals rapid inflammation and causes the characteristic itchy eyes, runny nose, and sneeze of allergies. On the other hand, Benadryl’s anticholinergic activity causes the sleepiness that many users use for a better night’s sleep since it can cross the blood-brain barrier and inhibit a molecule called acetylcholine.

If you’re a seasonal allergy sufferer and would like to avoid using anticholinergics like Benadryl while still taking an antihistamine, consider switching to a third-generation antihistamine such as fexofenadine, sold under the brand name Allegra, which lacks the anticholinergic activity that Benadryl has. This means that you’ll have allergy relief without sleepiness!

For those looking for something to help them sleep, consider a natural sleep aid such as melatonin, a molecule found naturally in the brain that allows synchronizing your sleep-wake cycle to the day-night process of each day.

Consult your doctor or other qualified medical professionals before starting any medications or if you have any questions regarding your health or medical conditions. Never disregard the advice of a medical professional or delay seeking medical care due to any of the information presented on this website.

All information on The Simple Herald is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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Raymond Hourst
Biologist, world traveler, and fine dining expert writing from Antananarivo, Madagascar to Detroit, Michigan

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