Scopolamine is a prescription medication usually prescribed in the form of a transdermal patch. It is used to prevent symptoms associated with motion sickness, including nausea and vomiting. It has several other clinical uses as well. Scopolamine is commonly prescribed before travel on ships and airplanes when motion sickness is anticipated. This paper will explore several studies that have identified specific actions of scopolamine, including its effect when used at sea, its effect on cognitive performance, and its effect on patients experiencing myocardial infraction.
Scopolamine is an alkaloid drug derived from plants in the Solanaceae family. This family of plants are called nightshade plants, and some examples are henbane and jimson weed. The chemical formula of scopolamine is C17H21NO4. Brand names include Scopoderm and Transderm-V. The medication works as an antagonist at muscarinic acetylcholine receptors by blocking the acetylcholine-mediated nerve impulses that travel to the inner ear. The inner ear is where the sense of balance is regulated in humans. Acetylcholine (Ach) is a major transmitter found in the autonomic ganglia that allows neurons to communicate for sensory input and muscle control. Muscarinic receptors are vital in the control of the central nervous system (CNS) and also parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs, and gastrointestinal processes. By blocking the action of these receptors, a result is possible impaired central and peripheral nervous system functioning. Inhibiting this functioning could also cause tachycardia, which can lead to myocardial infarction (heart attack) or angina (chest pain).
Scopolamine is also used as a pupil dilator, in pain management, and to treat symptoms associated with chemotherapy. At one point, it was mixed with morphine to induce what is known as “twilight sleep.” This is a state in which an individual feels no pain but does not suffer a complete loss of consciousness. Scopolamine is highly toxic and should only be used as prescribed in small doses. An overdose can cause heart failure, paralysis, delirium, and even death. Less serious and common side effects include impaired or blurred vision, dry mouth, constipation, and drowsiness. Scopolamine has been used as a date rape drug because of its ability to put people in a drowsy state.
When used clinically to treat motion sickness at sea, scopolamine is applied as a patch behind the ear. The patch controls the rate of administration to the bloodstream. In a study done involving healthy men and women from 16-55 years of age, scopolamine was found to be effective against motion sickness at sea versus a placebo. The men and women studied were greater than 85 pounds and had a history of motion sickness. The main side effect noted was dry mouth, and was rated as tolerable. Scopolamine in an intramuscular injectable form was found to be not as effective as the transdermal patch in this study.
Another study done on...