What are anticholinergic drugs?
Anticholinergics are a class of drugs used to treat various diseases, from asthma to the side effects of certain psychiatric drugs. They are also used to treat some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
They can help reduce the involuntary movement of body muscles that are part of the disease. For example, for Parkinson’s disease, anticholinergics are used to control the tremor that is usually characteristic of the condition.
Anticholinergics were originally derived from plants containing atropine, such as the deadly nightshade and thorn apple. For centuries, atropine-containing plants have been burned and smoke inhaled, and have been used to treat diseases that block the airways.
However, when these plants are burned, other compounds such as scopolamine and scopolamine are released. These compounds have intoxicating effects and sometimes even toxic effects.of
Anticholinergic drugs are a popular treatment for asthma today. They were originally taken in the form of cigarettes or pipes because of its medicinal value. This is not much different from the centuries-old method of using atropine-containing plants and inhaling smoke to treat obstructive respiratory diseases.
In the 19th century, anticholinergic drugs were introduced as drugs for Parkinson’s disease. They are the first form of treatment for this condition.
With the development of other more effective drugs for the disease, the number of people using anticholinergic drugs to treat Parkinson’s disease has since declined. This is mainly because the drug may have more serious side effects on the elderly.
The effect of anticholinergics
Anticholinergic drugs work by blocking the action of a chemical messenger called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is responsible for transmitting signals that affect the communication between nerves and certain types of muscles and organs in many parts of the body.of
Anticholinergic drugs prevent this chemical messenger from binding to receptors on the cell.
One of the most common uses of anticholinergic drugs is to treat asthma. They help relieve asthma symptoms by relaxing and widening the airways, which makes breathing easier. They are also used to treat various diseases such as urinary incontinence and motion sickness.
Anticholinergics can be divided into two categories. Some drugs are mainly anticholinergic drugs, and some drugs are used for other medical purposes but may have anticholinergic effects.
There are many types of pure anticholinergic drugs, and they all work in the same way-by blocking the effects of acetylcholine.
These types of anticholinergic drugs are generally not available over the counter and can only be prescribed by a doctor.
The exact anticholinergic medicine your doctor may prescribe for you depends on the condition being treated:
- Cogentin (benztropine mesylate) and Artane (trihexyphenidyl): used to treat some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and the side effects of certain psychotropic drugs.
- Enablex (darfinacine): used to treat urinary incontinence.
- Tudorza Pressair (Aclidinium Bromide): Used to treat respiratory diseases such as asthma.
- Atropine: treats eye diseases such as uveitis. It is also used to reduce the secretion of saliva and mucus in the respiratory tract during surgery.
- Ditropan (oxybutynin): used to treat overactive bladder.
Other anticholinergic drugs
Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs also have anticholinergic properties. This means that they can block the effects of acetylcholine, even if they are not formulated for this purpose. Medicines that fall into this category include:
- Tricyclic antidepressants: Amitriptyline, Anafranil (clomipramine) and Pamelor (nortriptyline)
- Antihistamines: Dimetapp (brompheniramine), Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Avil (benadramine) and other drugs
- Antipsychotics: Thorazine (chlorpromazine), Clozaril (clozapine), Zyprexa (olanzapine)
There are anticholinergic drugs that can be used to treat a variety of diseases, including:
- Motion sickness
- Gastrointestinal disease
- Some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
- Overactive bladder
- Urinary incontinence
- Muscle cramps
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Anticholinergic drugs can also be used during surgery to relax muscles, reduce saliva secretion, and maintain a steady heartbeat.
Common side effects
Anticholinergic drugs are relatively safe, but some people taking the drug may experience:of
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty urinating
It is important to know that unless necessary, anticholinergics should be avoided in the elderly, because the side effects of the elderly are more common, especially cognitive effects.
Serious side effects
When anticholinergics are used in high doses, more serious side effects may occur. Some of them include:
- Reduced sweating
- lost memory
- Impaired vision
- Urinary retention
These more serious side effects usually indicate an overdose of anticholinergic drugs. This is called anticholinergic or anticholinergic toxicity and requires immediate medical attention.of
More serious side effects are also more common in the elderly, which is why anticholinergics are used sparingly in the elderly.
Some studies have shown that long-term use of anticholinergic drugs may cause cognitive decline. A 2018 study evaluated the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in older people who have long used anticholinergic drugs.
Research results show that people who use them for a long time are associated with an increased risk of dementia.of
Certain precautions need to be taken when using anticholinergic drugs. They include:
- Overheating: When taking anticholinergic drugs, it is important to keep your body hydrated to prevent overheating, especially when one of the side effects you experience is reduced sweating. When you sweat less, your body temperature rises and you are more likely to suffer from heat stroke.
- Overdose: Taking several anticholinergic drugs at the same time may lead to overdose. Any overdose of anticholinergic drugs can be fatal. Signs of overdose include confusion, hallucinations, rapid heartbeat, fever, and dizziness.
- Use with alcohol: As with almost all drugs, it is strongly recommended not to use anticholinergic drugs with alcohol.
- Other medical conditions: People with certain medical conditions are discouraged from using anticholinergic drugs. If you have any health problems before taking anticholinergic drugs, please consult your doctor.
- Use with other medicines: People who are already taking certain other medicines should not take anticholinergics. If you are taking anticholinergic drugs, please discuss any potential interactions with other drugs with your doctor or pharmacist.
- Use multiple anticholinergic drugs: The use of multiple anticholinergic drugs may lead to greater risks of complications and toxicity due to collective side effects. If you are taking any over-the-counter drugs with anticholinergic effects, it is best to discuss potential drug interactions with your doctor.