10 Medications That Cause Memory Loss [Are You Taking Any Of These?]

Medications have side effects. Many drugs on the market today can impair memory, although you might not correlate your cognitive decline, and inability to remember, with your daily medication. In this post, I’ll be sharing information about several commonly-prescribed medications that cause memory loss. If you’re taking any of the drugs mentioned, you might want to re-evaluate your options.

10 Medications That Cause Memory Loss - An Assortment Of Pills

Millions of people worldwide are on painkillers, antibiotics, antidepressants, statins, blood-pressure medications, and sleeping pills. Below are 10 drugs, that fall within these categories, that can negatively impact memory:

Medications That Cause Memory Loss

1. Xanax

Xanax (generic name, alprazola) is a benzodiazepine and anxiolytic prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders. It works by reducing excitatory activity in the brain, and depresses the central nervous system to produce a calming effect.

Other side effects, besides memory loss, include confusion, fatigue, slurred speech, drowsiness, and decreased coordination. Long-term use of benzodiazepines is linked to drug dependence, reduced attention and concentration, and cognitive impairments, even after the drug is discontinued.

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2. Valium

Another commonly-prescribed benzodiazepine, Valium (generic name, diazepam) is a popular sedative and hypnotic used for insomnia, clinical anxiety, muscle spasms, alcohol withdrawal, seizures, and acute stress reactions. It’s a central nervous system depressant, and works by slowing brain activity.

Valium boosts the activity of GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain. Deficits in GABA are associated with anxiety. Valium is classified as a Schedule IV narcotic, making it less addictive than cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin, yet it’s potential for chemical dependency, abuse, and addiction is significant. Long-term risk includes memory loss, dizziness, depression, anxiety, and hallucinations.

3. Klonopin

Klonopin, (generic name, clonezepa) another benzodiazepine, is an anticonvulsant, anti-epileptic, and anxiolytic drug used to treat depression, prevent seizures and panic attacks, and to control pain. It’s also used in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Klonopin has a mild tranquilizing and sedative effect, which relaxes muscles, promotes restful sleep, and decreases anxiety.

Medications That Cause Memory Loss - True Health BannersThis sedative effect is due to the stimulation of the GABA-A receptors in the brain, along with a reduction of neuron excitability.

Side effects include confusion, drowsiness, slow reflexes, fatigue, lack of inhibition, muscle weakness, and short-term memory loss, especially in middle-aged women.

4. Lipitor

Lipitor (generic name, atorvastatin) is a HMG CoA reductase inhibitor, or statin. Used in conjunction with diet, it is used to lower high cholesterol to prevent heart attack, stroke, and complications of type 2 diabetes. Lipitor works by lowering levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol, and raising levels of HDL, which is considered beneficial.

The medication also reduces triglycerides, a type of blood fat linked to cardiovascular risk, liver disease, and metabolic disorders. Side effects include fatigue, confusion, drowsiness, memory loss, fever, and headache.

5. Ambien

Ambien (generic name, zolpidem) is a non-benzodiazepine sedative and hypnotic used for insomnia. The medication works by slowing brain activity, and positively impacting imbalanced chemicals in the brain. Ambien can be taken as immediate or extended-release tablets.

It’s a habit-forming drug that can lead to addiction and overdose if misused. Because of this potential for abuse, it’s often prescribed for periods no longer than a few weeks. Sedative-hypnotics affect the interaction between long and short-term memory.

Since sudden withdrawal of the drug can be dangerous, it’s important that ambien-use be reduced gradually. Side effects include impaired thinking, slow reaction time, clumsiness, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, depression, and unsteadiness.

6. Benadryl

Who would have guessed that a well-known antihistamine could cause memory loss? Benadryl (generic name: diphenhydramine)) is an anticholinergic drug, a class of medications that block the action of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for memory and learning.

Due to its ability to reduce histamine, benadryl is used to treat allergic reactions and symptoms.Many drugs, benadryl included, more powerfully affect older people because their livers and kidneys aren’t able to clear the medication as quickly, allowing it to remain in higher concentrations in the bloodstream for longer periods of time.

Side effects include sleepiness, drowsiness, fatigue, impaired coordination, and constipation. Long-term use of benadryl has been linked to dementia.

7. Neurontin

Neurontin, (generic name, gabapentin) is a central nervous system depressant, and an analog of the calming neurotransmitter GABA. It is used to treat spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain caused by diabetes, epilepsy, and nerve pain caused by shingles. Neurontin is used to treat pain not alleviated by other painkillers. It is also used off label for anxiety and restless leg syndrome.

It works by altering the way nerves send messages to the brain, and can be used in conjunction with other medications for pain relief. Data is sparse on neurontin’s effect on cognition, but studies have found that drugs within the same class negatively impact learning, object recognition, and memory.

Side effects include lack of coordination, drowsiness, weakness, double vision, dizziness, viral infections, and difficulty speaking. Drinking alcohol in combination with neurontin may intensify side effects.

8. Hydrocodone

Hydrocone (generic name, norco, bicodin) is a narcotic painkiller, or opioid analgesic, used to reduce moderate to severe chronic pain. This class of drugs works by interfering with the flow of pain signals in the central nervous system, inhibiting emotional reactions to pain. The chemical messengers, mediated by the drug to exert this effect, are involved with memory and cognition.

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Use of narcotics has been linked to both short and long-term memory loss, most notably when used for prolonged periods of time.
To reduce risk, hydrocodone should never be used for longer than prescribed or in higher dosages than recommended.
When combined with alcohol, opioids can be fatal. Potential side effects include allergic reactions, including hives, facial swelling, difficulty breathing, confusion, and drowsiness.

9. Amoxicillin

Amoxicillin (generic name, amoxil, trimox) is penicillin-type antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, bronchitis, and sinus infections. Its effect on memory likely has to do with the gut/brain connection. Antibiotics not only destroy bad bacteria in the GI tract, but also good bacteria, which is directly linked to brain function. 

It doesn’t help matters that antibiotics are handed out indiscriminately, and are even prescribed for viral infections, notably childhood ear infections. Side effects include headaches, upset stomach, GI problems, insomnia, yeast infections, and allergic reactions. Short-term memory loss has been noted particularly in females above 60 years of age.

10. Levaquin

Levaquin (generic name, levofloxacin) is a fluoroquinolone, the most commonly prescribed class of antibiotics in the US. Due to their potential to do great harm, fluoroquinolones should only be used for treating the most virulent, bacterial infections that have failed to respond favorably to other treatments.

Unfortunately, fluoroquinolones such as levofloxacin, are often prescribed to treat milder bacterial infections, such as urinary tract, ear, and sinus infections. Overuse is linked to antibiotic-resistant infections like MRSA and C. difficile, both serious and possibly life-threatening, bacterial infections. Fluoroquinolone, has the name suggests, contains fluoride a known neurotoxin, as a foundational component of the drug.

Fluoride can penetrate the blood brain barrier, causing central nervous system damage. Many fluoroquinolones have been taken off the market due to their toxicity. The ones that remain, carry a black box warning issued by the FDA. Side effects can be dire and can happen quickly, including psychotic reactions and hallucinations, blood-sugar disruptions, brain fog, depression, retinal detachment, and hearing loss.

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Key Points

Memory loss is not a small thing. It changes who you are when you can’t access your memories from the past or remember current details. People often don’t associate their forgetfulness with their medications. This is particularly true of older people, who are on several drugs simultaneously, and frequently blame their memory loss on age.

The more prescription drugs and over-the counter medications one takes, the greater the likelihood their effectiveness will be compromised, or reactions between the drugs will occur. Are you on any medications that cause memory loss? Have you noticed problems with cognition? Let me know in the comments:)    

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(1) National Institute on Drug Abuse: What are prescription CNS depressants?
(2) American Addiction Centers: Long-Term Use and Severe Addiction of Valium
(3) eHealthMe: Klonopin and Short-term memory loss – from FDA reports
(4) WebMD: High Triglycerides: What You Need to Know
(5) Drugs.com: Ambien
(6) Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School: Common anticholinergic drugs like Benadryl linked to increased dementia risk (7) eHealthMe: Amoxicillin and Short-term memory loss – from FDA reports
(8) Medical Daily: 5 Common Prescription Drugs That May Cause Memory Loss: Example And Alternative
(9) healthline: Side Effects of Amoxicillin
(10) Health/Drugs & Supplements: Caution? These 10 Drugs Can Cause Memory Loss
(11) Drugs.com: Hydrocodone
(12) US National Library of Medicine: Comparative effects of chronic administrations of gabpentin, pregabalin and baclofen on rat memory using object recognition test
(13) Mercola: Antibiotic Alert: The Drug the Doctor Ordered Could Cause Deadly Side Effects
Disclaimer: “I am not a medical doctor, and therefore, cannot diagnose or treat any medical condition, nor do I claim in any way to cure disease. Please be diligent and always do your own research in regard to any material I present on this site. I claim no responsibility for any distress, whether it be physical or emotional, that may occur as a result of the information you obtain from my blog.”

16 thoughts on “10 Medications That Cause Memory Loss [Are You Taking Any Of These?]”

  1. It seems rather strange to see Benadryl on this list. I know of at least three people who are currently using it right now. To be honest, I’m not sure they know of this side effect of memory loss. 

     Reading about this here, I feel a sense of urgency to make them aware of memory loss as a possible side effect. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • I agree, it is surprising that benadryl can cause memory loss. Occasional use is not an issue though. If the people you know are using it long-term, they should definitely be made aware of potential side effects. Thanks for taking the time to read my article. 

  2. Thanks for this enlightening post on drugs that can cause memory loss. Yeah, I can remember sometime ago I was having some back pain, and my doctor prescribed hydrocodone for me to use. I thought if I used it in small small amount it would relieve my pain. 

     I could not remember anything for that period. My parents told me I struggled with my memory.  This post will really help other people know the potential side effects of medications. 

    • Hi Rose,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with hydrocodone. It’s important to realize that we never know how we’re going to react to medications. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment:)

  3. I have used Neurontinin in the past but then, I am not sure I had such reactions as memory loss though,I took it for anxiety related issues, but I’m not really sure something like this happened. I was sure to take it for less than 2 months to avoid over relying on it. Thanks so much for sharing this here. I found this to be interesting and at the same time, informative.

    • Hi Bella,

      I’m glad you didn’t notice memory loss while taking Neurontin. Perhaps, you didn’t take it long enough. Thanks so much for reading:)

  4. Wow! This a valuable post for every people.  You discussed about “10 Medications That Cause Memory Loss.” 

    I hope everyone will learn something. You shared such a good post that will inform everyone about the side effects of these medications. You discussed every medicine carefully. 

    Again thanks for this sharing.  

    This post helps me as well as all people who read it.

    • Thank you. I think the subject is an important one, and one that many people aren’t aware of. I appreciate your comment:)

  5. Great list of meds that can cause memory loss. I didn’t know that Benadryl could affect memory. My wife uses it sometimes to help her sleep. Do you think that it can be a problem if it is used only on occasionally?

    The only drug that I knew that could cause memory loss is cannabis. Thank you for sharing this valuable info with us. Al

    • Hi Al,

      Yes, Benadryl used for sustained periods can cause memory loss. However, I don’t know why someone would need to use it long-term. I wouldn’t worry about it if your wife only uses it occasionally. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment:)

  6. Hello, thanks a lot for this wonderful article, let me call it an alert message to the people because you have opened many people’s eyes towards different drugs which cause memory loss. This is something interesting because many have been complaining of memory loss but not knowing the root cause, yet they are using some of these drugs. Thanks very much for this information. 

    • Yes, many people don’t associate their symptoms with the drugs they’re taking, particularly if they’re on more than one, which most people are. Memory loss is a very disconcerting symptom to say the least. If a certain medication I was taking were causing memory loss, I would find a better alternative. Thanks for reading my post. 

  7. Well detailed article. I believe such information is very vital to everyone and it’s better to be informed just in case, personally don’t know more about the highlighted medications but I am sure to research more on them from your related post, and for that reason, I have to subscribe to your newsfeed to learn more about this and other related articles, thank you for sharing this post to the public, am sure it will be of great help to many.

    Thank you..

    • Hi Joy,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my article. I felt that it was important information since these particular medications are so commonly used. Memory loss is a big deal, and unfortunately, that’s just one of many side effects. Sadly, many people don’t correlate their symptoms with the meds they’re taking. Thanks so much for subscribing to my newsletter. I post every week. 

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