Drug-induced memory disturbance

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By K K Jain MD

Drug-induced memory disturbance is also known as or subsumes Drug-induced amnestic syndrome, Traveler amnesia, and Triazolam syndrome. -ed.

A number of commonly used therapeutic drugs and medications, and some recreational drugs, are known to produce memory disturbances. Temporal association with the drugs is the only characteristic feature of drug-induced amnesia. Benzodiazepines are the best known examples. Although as a class benzodiazepines act rapidly and are well tolerated, their use continues to be associated with memory impairment. Anticholinergics impair memory retrieval, especially free recall. Drugs with anticholinergic activity also contribute to verbal memory deficits. Various pathomechanisms of drug-induced memory deficits are discussed in this clinical article. Discontinuation of the medication causing memory disturbance is usually sufficient, and the patient may recover spontaneously. Memory training exercises may accelerate the recovery.

Key Points

  • A number of drugs, both therapeutic and recreational, can produce memory disturbances.
  • A number of mechanisms are involved in drug-induced memory impairment.
  • Drug-induced amnesia is not necessarily related to the sedating effects of drugs.
  • Discontinuation of the medication causing memory disturbance is usually sufficient for recovery.