Marketed under the brand name Aricept, donepezil is a prescription medication for sufferers of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. While it can help to ease some symptoms of the condition, donepezil is neither a cure nor a treatment for Alzheimer’s itself. It does not stop the progression of the illness, but it can help to temporarily improve cognitive abilities and the ability to perform everyday tasks. As with most prescription drugs, it is not without its potential downsides. The side effects of Aricept include nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, an irregular heart rate, and difficulty sleeping.
Aricept or donepezil is a drug known as a cholinesterase inhibitor. According to the National Institutes of Health, this type of medication is primarily used to combat dementia. Donepezil comes in pill form and is usually supposed to be taken once daily before going to sleep. It is designed to attack such issues as reduced memory, difficulty concentrating, and an overall impaired ability to think clearly. The effects are temporary and do not deal with the underlying cause, but when taken regularly (usually daily), donepezil improves cognitive functions in most Alzheimer’s sufferers.
Potential side effects of Aricept include a wide range of complications. Not all users will experience side effects and some will only occur as the body gets accustomed to the medication, lessening and disappearing within a week or so. WebMD reports that these side effects of donepezil can include digestive malaise including nausea and vomiting, fatigue and drowsiness, and muscle cramping. For most users, these issues should dissipate, but if they persist, medical attention should be sought.
Another potential side effect of Aricept involves sleep abnormalities. Users may have difficulty falling asleep or experience an interrupted sleep cycle. Additionally, abnormal dreams may occur, though the Mayo Clinic reports that this is not one of the more common side effects. Additional side effects of donepezil can include lightheadedness, joint pain or swelling, reduced appetite, an unusually frequent need to urinate, weight loss, and depression.
Users of Aricept face an increased risk of side effects if they are also taking certain other medications. According to the Mayo Clinic, oxybutynin and tolterodine can spur side effects in tandem with donepezil. Editor of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology Jeffrey Aronson’s book, Side Effects of Drugs Annual 27, examines one such interaction. Succinylcholine is a drug used to produce temporary muscle paralysis in order to perform certain medical procedures. When used on a patient taking donepezil, the effects of succinylcholine may be prolonged.
Aricept, generically donepezil, can be effective in reducing the symptoms of dementia in many people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. While it can improve cognitive function and the ability to engage in everyday tasks, various side effects of donepezil can materialize. Talk to your doctor about any other drugs you are taking before using donepezil. Also talk to your doctor if Aricept side effects develop and do not go away.
Aricept Oral. WebMD.
Aronson, J.K. Side Effects of Drugs Annual 27: A Worldwide Yearly Survey of New Data and Trends in Adverse Drug Reactions and Interactions. Elsevier, 2004.
Donepezil. National Institutes of Health.
Donepezil (Oral Route). Mayo Clinic.