Dementia and Prescription Drug Abuse

Senior woman holding hands with young lady

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

For countless individuals that struggle with dementia, completing even the most basic tasks on a daily basis can be a challenge.  Various things, including stroke, can cause dementia, brain trauma, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, or other genetic defects that can influence the structure and function of the brain.  Symptoms of dementia can vary on a individual basis and on degree of severity, with some people experiencing more mild symptoms and others experience worsening symptoms over time.

Dementia Symptoms

Some of the most common symptoms of dementia include the following:

  • Poor judgment or difficulty in making decisions
  • Confusion about location, place and time
  • Difficulty writing, speaking and communicating
  • Mood and personality changes
  • Frequent loss of belongings with an inability to relocate them
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble with planning and organizing

Old CoupleWhile there are no current cures for dementia, there are several steps that can be taken to help improve quality of life for the person who might be suffering.  Prescription medications may be useful for helping an individual improve mood, behavior, or general mental functions.  Any prescription medications should be thoroughly discussed with a physician.  If other prescription medications are also being taken to treat co-occurring conditions, it is important to review possible drug interactions.

Individuals with dementia may have difficulty adhering to a consistent medication schedule.  Other common difficulties involving prescription medications include forgetfulness of when a drug was taken.  Because of the symptoms associated with dementia, an individual with this condition may struggle with following a prescription drug regime.  This can lead to prescription drug misuse, which can result in a host of other complications, and ultimately, mismanagement or worsening of dementia.

If you or someone you care for is dealing with dementia and taking prescription medication, be sure to have an efficient system for regularly consuming medication.  This might including having someone come over to help administer the correct medications, including a trust friend, family member, or nurse, or pre-sorting daily medications into a pill box that makes it easier for the user to take.  If you are struggling with taking your medication consistently because of symptoms of dementia, be sure to talk with your doctor and reach out for the appropriate help you need.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Have you cared for an individual who takes multiple medications?  What are ways that you have helped ensure that medications are taken correctly?  What might be some tips or suggestions that you would share with individuals who take multiple prescription medications?

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions and co-occurring disorders.  These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.  We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors.  If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.  

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 9, 2015, 2015. Published on