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Alzheimer’s: Answers to Common Questions

1. Are there any bad side effects from Alzheimer’s drugs?

A person with Alzheimer's disease may be taking medicines to treat their symptoms and other health problems they have. But when they take many medications at once, there’s a higher chance they’ll have a bad reaction to them. The problems can include confusion, agitation, sleepiness or sleeplessness, mood swings, memory problems, and upset stomach.

Some people who have severe symptoms of Alzheimer's disease -- such as aggressive behavior or hallucinations (seeing, feeling, or hearing things that aren’t there) – may need stronger medicine to keep their problems under control. But some of these drugs can make their other Alzheimer’s symptoms worse. For example:

  • Some drugs such as tranquilizers can cause confusion, memory trouble, and slowed reactions, which can lead to falls.
  • Medicines that treat depression can cause sedation and other side effects.
  • Some medicines that treat hallucinations can cause sedation, confusion, and drops in blood pressure.

Ask your doctor about the pros and cons of these options. Also, some over-the-counter drugs, including cough and cold remedies, and sleep medicines, can have side effects, too. They may also react with other Alzheimer’s meds. A doctor can let you know which ones are safe to take.

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