Psychiatric Drugs That Impair Memory

I scored a copy of Martha Stewart’s book Living the Good Life: A Practical Guide to Caring for Yourself and Others for fifty cents at Salvation Army last month and I just sat down to read it. Part 1 features a section on brain health and there’s a big list of medications that have been shown to affect memory. There are over 15 classes of drugs listed, from analgesics (pain killers) to steroids. I would like to share the relevant psychiatric drugs here in the name of informed consent.

Antianxiety Drugs

  • alprazolam (Xanax)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • lorazepam (Ativan)
  • oxazepam (Serax)
  • temazepam (Restoril)
  • triazolam (Halcion)

Antidepressant Drugs

  • amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • imipramine (Tofranil)

Antipsychotic Drugs

  • chlorpromazine (Thorazine)
  • haloperidol (Haldol)
  • thioridazine (Mellaril)

Hormones

  • levothyroxine sodium (Synthroid)

Seizure Drugs

  • carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • valporic acid (Depakote)

Sleep Drugs

  • zolpidem (Ambien)

I have personally taken a number of these drugs as well as several of the antibiotics, antihistamines, decongestants, anti-nausea drugs, steroids, pain drugs, and hormones and I am certain that long-term use of the psychiatric drugs has caused memory problems. I did not have memory issues until college, which is when my prescriber put me on a bunch of different psych meds. I am 34 years old now and I have significant memory issues. What about you? Have psychiatric drugs impaired your memory? Did you know about this side effect before you agreed to take the drug? How does this make you feel? I am mad (to say the least). I intend to research when it was determined that each of the drugs that I took caused memory problems and, if I was not properly warned before taking the drug, file claims against the makers of the drugs.

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2 thoughts on “Psychiatric Drugs That Impair Memory”

  1. You are spot on here. In the past I was previously diagnosed bipolar (amongst other things) and spent 2 months in hospital. For 3 or 4 years I was severely medicated on psychiatric drugs which severely affected many parts of my life and personality. My main issue being complete memory loss for this entire period of time. I also experienced blurred vision and loss of vision. I have been off medication for 6 years now, and my vision and memory have gone back to normal but still don’t feel right mentally. I’m terrified of medication and psychiatrists in general from my previous experience. I wasn’t made aware of this side effect, but I appreciate you writing something about it. Makes you feel a little less crazy.

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    1. Thank you for sharing, Bipolar-esque. It is really comforting to know that we’re in this together and that it’s possible to get your memory back. I have been trying to get off of Depakote, which is on the list, for the past few weeks but I started getting too manic. Not sure if that is because of withdrawal or because I need to stay on the drug, but it is frustrating. I would really like to get off medication as you have done.

      It angers me that potential side effects are not always discussed with patients. I have been hospitalized a few times for bipolar disorder as well. At one hospital (I have been to 3) I was asked to read and sign a papers stating that I understood the side effects and agreed to take the medications but at the other two I was just given the drugs. And while reading and signing the documents is a step in the right direction, I shouldn’t have been able to make those types of decisions for myself at the time because of my mental state. I wish that I could have talked with a family member that knows my treatment wishes. Outside of the hospital, my experience with various prescribing health care providers has been similar…some are very thorough and some just write the prescription, only warning me of the most serious side effects like tardive dyskinesia. Memory problems cause me to get depressed because it seems like I can remember negative/traumatic things easily but I have a difficult time remembering things like the first time that I kissed my husband. I am hopeful that I am able to improve my memory somehow.

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