Anticholinergic side effects

Anticholinergic side effects would include

  1. Memory loss (forgetfulness) and confusion
  2. Light-headedness and mental fogginess
  3. Constipation
  4. Blurred vision
  5. Dry mouth

This page was last updated by Dr Barrie Lewis on 7th March, 2020.

What is Acetylcholine? (ACh)

Astonishingly, 50 percent of the American population are taking Anticholinergic drugs, which are designed to counter the effect of Acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine (ACh) is a neurotransmitter used widely throughout the brain and in fact the whole body. In order for information to get from one nerve to another (across what is called a synapse) the Nervous System uses chemical transmitters. Acetycholine is required to

  • send messages to the large (skeletal) muscles of the body to contract
  • to inhibit heart muscle
  • to effect all the nerves of the Autonomic Nervous System (which controls those function which are beyond our direct control, for example digestion of food, and contraction of the pupil).
  • In the brain it is arouses and excites adjacent nerves; essential for example in memory.
Synapses involved in anticholinergic side effects.

Memory loss

In a study reported in the British Medical Journal scientists, commenting on anticholinergic side effects did cognitive tests on a group of persons over 60 who started taking Anticholinergic medicines like sleeping tablets. None at the beginning of the research showed any signs of dementia.

Only two years later, fully 80% tested poorly when it came to such cognitive tests as

  • Attention Skills Reaction times
  • Language tasks 
  • Narrative recall 
  • Non-verbal memory (such as finding your way around in the car)

All of these are anticholinergic side effects of the medication they were taking. These drugs block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

If you are suffering from early symptoms of dementia, do not assume that the end is nigh and assume you have it; check your drugs first.

The chief cause of confusion and disorientation in older folk is the side-effects of medication. So says Dr Daniel Levitin, a leading neuroscientist.

More research about anticholinergic side effects

Researchers reporting in the trusted journal JAMA Neurology confirm the long known association between anticholinergic medication and cognitive impairment and an increased risk of dementia in formerly cognitive normal older adults.

Reduced glucose metabolism and a reduced cortical brain volume were measured, as well as a poorer performance on the trail making test - B.1

Cognitive decline and FALLS

"Cognitive decline is a major public health care issue, and a well-recognized clinical manifestation of cognitive decline is falls. Seniors with cognitive impairment fall at twice the rate of peers without cognitive impairment.Exercise training may be an effective strategy against cognitive decline and it is recommended  for prevention of falls. We recently reported that 12 months of once-weekly or twice-weekly resistance training improved selective attention and conflict resolution compared with a balance and tone program (BAT) among 155 community-dwelling senior women.

"Archives of INTERNAL MEDICINE, Dec 2010)

Hearing loss

"Regular use of aspirin, NSAIDs, and acetaminophen can increase the risk of hearing loss."


Which anticholinergic drugs? Iatrogenic Illness.

Are you taking sleeping tablets, sedatives, anti-anxiety and anti-depressent medication? Antihistamines, Codeine, Anti-inflammatories? Blood thinners. And many others.

Are you getting forgetful and foggy-brain? Have a good chat to your pharmacist.

Fully 50 percent of Americans are taking these drugs. Their anticholinergic side effects may be ruining your brain.

Johns Hopkins Medical university states that there are 113 000 deaths per year in the USA alone due to side-effects of drugs and medication errors in hospitals (reported in Journal of the American Medical Association). Are we surprised? This makes drugs the fourth leading cause of death in the USA after heart disease and cancer.

The third most common disease? Read about Iatrogenic, or doctor-caused disease, click here:


To be fair let's also consider chiropractic iatrogenic illness.


In Alzheimer's disease, nerves in the brain lose their connectivity with other nerves at the synapses. Soon they atrophy and die, and the brain actually shrinks, affecting memory, thinking and ultimately behaviour.

Anxiety and difficulty making decisions are amongst the first signs.

Ironically, the medication of choice is a pro-cholinergic medicine to increase the supply of Acetylcholine.

Chiropractic has many positives. Perhaps few are more important than we keep our patients off these Anticholinergic medications. And because of our emphasis on movement, the Alzheimers and Exercise link kicks in. Medicine does a fine job of crisis care, but when it comes to the day-by-day management of your life, consider Chiropractic First. ALZHEIMERS AND EXERCISE ...


There is a strong correlation between exercise and cholesterol too. The more you exercise the lower the dangerous LDLs and VLDLs cholesterol in your blood stream. In fact, it is possibly the lowering of cholesterol that is positively affecting the onset of senile dementia and Alzheimers. Get those walking shoes out.


The drug Acetaminophen is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the USA. Because it is contained in many different over-the-counter drugs (like Tylenol, Anacin, Excedrin and many flu and cold medicines), and prescription drugs, Americans are seriously overdosing on Acetaminophen.

This has directly resulted in 458 deaths per year recently.

FDA recommends not mixing Acetaminophen-containing drugs, and to avoid them if you drink alcohol or have a liver condition. The toxic effect is worsened in the presence of anti-cholinergic drugs.


Is not worth considering chiropractic first rather than risking these terrible anticholinergic side effects?

Think about chiropractic first before the massive dangers of anticholinergic side effects.
"Patients don’t want to look stupid, Doctor." Six golden rules for chiropractors.

"The world is indoctrinated in medicine. People are born in a medicine cabinet and grow up in a drugstore. They have been brainwashed, hypnotized, mesmerized and drugged to believe their life-force comes from the Outside-In. Chiropractic must un-brainwash them and demonstrate that health comes from Inside-Out."

- Dr. B.J. Palmer, D.C.

Inside Out is a short story you'll love.


Drug companies are becoming more and more successful at turning us all into drug addicts - Ritalin is high addictive. Today over one million children in the USA are on Ritalin, for Attention Deficit rather than Dyslexia because so many children have symptoms of both... as chiropractors we believe the alternatives should be considered... MORE DYSLEXIA ...

At a personal level, I am so grateful I lived in an era before medication of children became the norm.

I tell it all at attention deficit Bernie.

"In all affairs it is a healthy thing, now and then, to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.

Bertrand Russell


A 53-year old patient with a history of a suspected mild heart heart attack was placed on Warfarin, a blood thinner. Last year her doctor insisted she had the flu shots to make sure she did not get the flu as it might overstrain her heart. Within three days she became extremely ill, which lasted over a month.

This year? She started getting some flashing lights in her eye, signs of a retinal tear. The ophthalmologist confirmed a small tear and advised routine laser therapy. But he did not ask her, and she did not tell what drugs she was taking; the laser surgery caused massive bleeding behind the retina because of the anticholinergic side effects of the blood thinners that she was taking, killed the optic nerve, and she is now stone blind in that eye.

Personally I would virtually never take the flu shot. In one year Medicine admits that it caused a doubling of the rate of a very serious neurological disorder called Guillian-Barre Syndrome.

That year the flu shot killed more people than lives saved. I wonder how many other diseases it also caused? Drugs are dangerous.

HOMOCYSTEINE Cardiovascular disease

Scientists at the Laboratory for Neurosciences in Bethesda looked for a link between the amino acid HOMOCYSTEINE (produced from the metabolism of the protein in meat) and the vitamin Folic Acid.

They found that mice deprived of Folate had high levels of HOMOCYSTEINE and were particularly vulnerable to neurotoxins. Then, when the mice were fed Folate, their homocysteine levels dropped and they were able to repair the neurons damaged by the toxin.


As we've seen the neurotransmitter ACETYLCHOLINE is the brain's memory molecule.

SAMe, a vital body chemical, is produced from HOMOCYSTEINE. SAMe helps produce and activate the ACETYLCHOLINE in your brain from CHOLINE, an important foodstuff found in eggs and organ meat. This process requires high levels of anti-oxidants like ZINC and the B VITAMINS and FOLATE.

This is complex biochemistry. Do not fuss over these names. But do recognise that anything that lowers ACETYLCHOLINE in your brain will inhibit your short-term memory. That could be Alzheimers or old age dementia.

Take these Anti-acetylcholine drugs on a regular basis, eat a diet poor in anti-oxidants and B vitamins and folate, and you are setting yourself up for the early demise of your brain. In short, you'll lose your marbles! Read more about ANTICHOLINERGIC SIDE EFFECTS at ...

  • HOMOCYSTEINE Cardiovascular disease ...

What is betaine?

What is betaine, and its precursor choline, is a very important subject for all those suffering from anticholinergic side effects. It's the vitamin like substance involved in the methylation, read degradation, of toxic homocysteine.

Rather we should be looking at procholinergic foods that will enrich our memories, better control muscle contraction including the heart, and improve the digestion of our food.

An understanding of betaine, and choline food sources is so important for all of us, but especially those suffering from anticholinergic side effects.

There's no better place to start than an egg poached on a bed of beet greens or spinach; a rich source of betaine and choline.

What is betaine is a subject all those who have chronic pain and inflammation should understand.

Beet greens can be used to make a wonderful eggs Florentine.

Use free range cage free eggs if you can find them; serve it on a toasted slice of bread made from 100% healthy flour; it's hard to find, and I chose to bake it myself. It takes only five minutes every morning.

Remember a life without medication should be the goal of each and everyone of us; if you are suffering from the ravages of anticholinergic side effects then it is time to stop and consider before you lose your mind.

› Anticholinergic side effects

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti-inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He is doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost pain-free. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily stroll has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift; he has a short leg.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. X-rays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65-year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88-year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done. 

10. Mr X is a 71-year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a few months ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he could not sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71-year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

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Interesting questions from visitors

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