The common drug that could wreak havoc on your brain

Move over anesthesia brain and chemotherapy brain — “antibiotic brain” is the latest drug-induced threat to your mind.

In fact, according to a new study, these common drugs are a major cause of delirium in hospital patients.

Researchers reviewed 65 years’ worth of data. They looked for symptoms that started after patients began antibiotic treatment, and “magically” disappeared after treatment ended. They were able to identify nearly 400 incidents of delirium and altered cognition potentially triggered by antibiotics.

And we’re not just talking about one or two antibiotics, here.

There were more than 50 different antibiotics in 12 different drug classes involved in these cases.

This study pretty much covered them all. Which makes the trends observed even more disturbing…

Researchers identified a clear pattern, pointing to three distinct presentations of delirium (technically referred to as antibiotic-associated encephalophathy, or AAE):

  • Type 1: Seen with penicillin and cephalosporins (like Keflex). Symptoms set in and typically resolve within days. They include spasms or seizures and abnormal EEG despite normal MRI.
  • Type 2: Seen with procaine penicillin, sulfonamides, fluoroquinolones, and macrolides. In these cases, symptoms also appear and resolve within days. They include psychosis and occasionally seizures. Some EEGs may be abnormal, but MRI findings would be normal.
  • Type 3: Seen only with metronidazole. This type typically occurs weeks, instead of days, after initiation of treatment. The syndrome frequently involves motor dysfunction — and on rare occasions, seizures and EEG abnormalities.

Isoniazid also triggered delirium symptoms — typically psychosis and abnormal EEG, and rarely, seizures — with onset occurring weeks to months after beginning treatment. This is an important drug to mention, because it’s the latest “darling” amongst doctors treating older patients with a chronic cough. And the protocol typically calls for up to nine months of this awful antibiotic.

Researchers hope that raising awareness of these patterns will help doctors identify and cease antibiotic regimens that might be causing delirium in their patients. A nice thought — but we’ll see who’s actually paying attention.

Every time news like this breaks, we get the same ridiculous dog and pony show — medical authorities wringing their hands, hiding their heads, and acting so shocked that such a thing could ever have happened.

But there are very real potential consequences when you take any pharmaceutical drug. Doctors know this — at least, they should. So the only shocking thing about news of this kind is that the medical community is still so cavalier with their prescribing practices.

There’s no better example of this irresponsible attitude than mainstream medicine’s ongoing love affair with antibiotics.

The fact is, we’re headed into very dangerous territory when it comes to antibiotics. Recent studies are revealing just how many people leave the hospital carrying antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria with them. And my clinical experience certainly reflects this trend. I can’t tell you how many of my patients have gotten MRSA simply from going to the gym.

The worst part is, we don’t have any new antibiotics to combat all of these bugs. They have completely outsmarted us. And how have we responded? By using “antibacterial” anything and everything, all the time. A strategy that, ironically, is only going to lead to more resistant bacteria.

These soaps and sanitizers offer a false sense of security. You see them in every corner of every hospital. But despite all these antibacterial pit stops, a hospital is by far one of the least sanitary places you can be.

This is one of the many reasons why I strongly urge you to avoid checking into one unless it’s critically necessary. Because as this latest study so aptly demonstrates, if the bugs don’t get you, the drugs most certainly will.