iHeard iHeard Alert

Does long-term Benadryl use cause dementia? 16% of St. Louisans heard it does.

A recent TikTok video claimed that long-term use of Benadryl could increase your risk of dementia. Nearly one in six (16%) St. Louis adults reported hearing the claim in the last week, a 5% increase from the prior week; 93% believed it was true.

Older adults 50+ were more likely to hear the claim than those under 50 (23% vs 12%), as were women compared to men (19% vs 9%).

Benadryl and other first-generation antihistamines are anticholinergic drugs (pronounced “an-ti-koh-luh-nur-jik”) that work by blocking a chemical signaling system in the body called the cholinergic system. Some older versions of anti-depressants, sleep aids containing diphenhydramine, and certain bladder control medications also have anticholinergic effects. A scientific review concluded that among adults 50 and older with no memory problems, anticholinergic drug use is associated with future cognitive decline or dementia. The studies don’t prove that these drugs cause dementia.

A person’s cumulative dose of anticholinergic drugs over time also appears to increase dementia risk. For example, in a JAMA study cited in the TikTok video, participants taking these drugs for the equivalent of 3 years or more had a higher risk of dementia than those taking the same daily dose for 3 months or less.

Many TikTok videos oversimplify the scientific evidence by suggesting that any use of Benadryl increases dementia risk.

St. Louis results were part of a national survey of 621 adults in CO, MD, MO, and NE. Adults were asked if they’d heard in the last 7 days that “Long-term Benadryl use is linked to dementia.” Across all states, 21% had heard the claim. Most (88%) of those who heard the claim believed it could be true. Respondents in Omaha were most likely to have heard it (30%), and those in St. Louis were least likely (16%).

Community organizations in St. Louis can share the resources below to remind community members to use medications as directed and make sure their doctor knows what drugs they are taking.

This week’s report is based on responses from a panel of adult residents of Baltimore, MD (n = 201); St. Louis, MO (n = 186); Omaha, NE (n = 104); and Colorado (n = 130), surveyed from Saturday, February 24, to Monday, February 26, 2024. Explore these data and more at iHeardSTL.

Download the graphics below to share about this topic.

Suggested Caption:

Recent TikTok videos claimed that regularly using Benadryl for sleep increases your risk of dementia; scientists are still learning about this, with several studies finding an increased risk if you take the drug daily for 3+ years. Always use your medication as recommended.

#iHeardSTL #Benadryl #AnticholinergicDrugs #STLHealth

Suggested Caption:

Looking to replace your Benadryl use? Here are some alternatives. Remember, always use medications as directed and make sure your doctor knows what drugs you are taking.

#iHeardSTL #Benadryl #Allergies #STLHealth

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *