Anticholinergic drug/ classification Anticholinergic drug

Anticholinergic drug

A family of pharmaceuticals known as anticholinergic drugs functions by preventing the effects of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is found in the nervous system. Since acetylcholine plays a role in nerve signal transmission, anticholinergic medications cause a variety of physiological consequences by blocking its function. These medications are used to treat a variety of ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, overactive bladder, gastrointestinal problems, allergies, and some mental disorders. Anticholinergic medications have potential therapeutic advantages, but they can also have negative side effects, such as dry mouth, impaired vision, constipation, and cognitive decline. To guarantee their proper use and reduce any hazards, these drugs must be prescribed with much thought and close observation.

Anticholinergic drug

These drugs are commonly used for a range of medical conditions, including:

  1. Allergies: Antihistamines with anticholinergic properties can help relieve symptoms like runny nose and sneezing.

  2. Motion Sickness: Some anticholinergic medications are used to prevent motion sickness.

  3. Gastrointestinal Issues: Anticholinergic drugs can be used to treat certain gastrointestinal conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and peptic ulcers.

  4. Parkinson’s Disease: Some medications with anticholinergic effects are used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease to help manage tremors and other symptoms.

  5. Overactive Bladder: Anticholinergic drugs may be prescribed to reduce bladder spasms and control urinary incontinence.

  6. Psychiatric Disorders: In some cases, anticholinergic medications are used in the treatment of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Anticholinergic drug classification

Anticholinergic drugs can be classified based on their specific mechanism of action or their clinical uses. Here are some common classes of anticholinergic drugs:

1.Antimuscarinic Agents:

Antimuscarinic agents are a class of drugs that exert their effects by blocking the action of acetylcholine at muscarinic receptors. Muscarinic receptors are a type of cholinergic receptor found in various tissues throughout the body, including smooth muscles, glands, and the heart. By inhibiting the effects of acetylcholine at these receptors, antimuscarinic agents produce a range of physiological effects.

Here are some key points about antimuscarinic agents:

  1. Mechanism of Action: These agents competitively block muscarinic receptors, preventing acetylcholine from binding to and activating these receptors. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in the transmission of nerve signals in the parasympathetic nervous system.

  2. Clinical Uses:

    • Overactive Bladder: Antimuscarinic drugs are commonly used to treat overactive bladder (OAB) by reducing involuntary contractions of the bladder muscle. This helps control symptoms such as urgency, frequency, and urge incontinence.
    • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Some antimuscarinic agents may be used to alleviate symptoms of IBS, particularly those associated with intestinal spasms.
    • Motion Sickness: Antimuscarinics like scopolamine can be used to prevent motion sickness.
    • Parkinson’s Disease: In certain cases, antimuscarinic drugs are used as adjuncts in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease to help manage tremors and other symptoms.
  3. Examples of Antimuscarinic Agents:

    • Oxybutynin: Used for overactive bladder and urinary incontinence.
    • Tolterodine: Prescribed for overactive bladder.
    • Solifenacin: Used to treat symptoms of overactive bladder.
    • Scopolamine: Often used to prevent motion sickness.
    • Atropine: Has various uses, including dilation of the pupils (mydriasis) and as an antidote for certain poisonings.
  4. Side Effects: Antimuscarinic drugs can produce side effects due to their systemic action. Common side effects may include dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, urinary retention, and confusion. These side effects are a result of the blockade of muscarinic receptors in various tissues.

  5. Considerations: Antimuscarinic drugs should be used cautiously in certain populations, such as the elderly, who may be more susceptible to side effects, especially cognitive impairment.

It’s important for individuals taking antimuscarinic agents to be aware of potential side effects and to use these medications under the guidance of a healthcare professional. The choice of a specific agent depends on the patient’s condition and individual characteristics.

2.Antihistamines with Anticholinergic Properties:

Antihistamines with anticholinergic properties are medications that not only block the effects of histamine, which is involved in allergic reactions, but also have additional effects on the cholinergic system by blocking acetylcholine receptors. This dual action contributes to their ability to alleviate allergy symptoms and may also result in side effects associated with anticholinergic activity. Here are some common antihistamines with anticholinergic properties:

  1. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl): Diphenhydramine is a first-generation antihistamine with strong anticholinergic effects. It is often used to relieve symptoms of allergies, hay fever, and the common cold. It may also be used as a sleep aid.

  2. Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton): Chlorpheniramine is another first-generation antihistamine with anticholinergic properties. It is used to treat allergy symptoms, including itching, sneezing, and runny nose.

  3. Promethazine (Phenergan): Promethazine is a first-generation antihistamine with anticholinergic effects. In addition to its antihistamine properties, it is often used to manage nausea and vomiting.

  4. Cyproheptadine (Periactin): Cyproheptadine is another first-generation antihistamine with anticholinergic activity. It is used to relieve allergy symptoms and may also stimulate appetite.

  5. Hydroxyzine (Atarax, Vistaril): Hydroxyzine is a first-generation antihistamine with anticholinergic properties. It is used to treat itching, allergic reactions, and anxiety.

It’s important to note that first-generation antihistamines tend to have more prominent anticholinergic side effects compared to second-generation antihistamines. Second-generation antihistamines, such as loratadine, cetirizine, and fexofenadine, are designed to have less impact on the central nervous system and are often preferred for their lower risk of causing sedation and other anticholinergic side effects. Individuals taking antihistamines with anticholinergic properties should be cautious, especially if they are prone to conditions that may be exacerbated by anticholinergic effects, such as glaucoma, urinary retention, or certain cardiovascular conditions. Always follow the advice and recommendations of a healthcare professional when using these medications.

3.Antispasmodic Agents:

Antispasmodic agents are a class of medications that work to relax or reduce muscle spasms, particularly in smooth muscles. Smooth muscles are found in various organs and structures of the body, including the gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, and blood vessels. Antispasmodic agents are commonly used to alleviate symptoms associated with conditions characterized by involuntary muscle contractions or spasms. Here are some examples of antispasmodic agents:

  1. Dicyclomine: This antispasmodic is often used to treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) by relaxing the smooth muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. It helps reduce abdominal pain and cramping.

  2. Hyoscyamine: Hyoscyamine is used to treat various gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome and peptic ulcers. It helps relax smooth muscles, leading to decreased spasms and pain.

  3. Mebeverine: Mebeverine is used to relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal disorders. It works by relaxing the smooth muscles in the gut.

  4. Pinaverium: This antispasmodic agent is used to treat gastrointestinal disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome. It helps reduce muscle spasms in the digestive tract.

  5. Otilonium bromide: Otilonium bromide is another antispasmodic used to treat irritable bowel syndrome. It acts on smooth muscles in the gastrointestinal tract to alleviate symptoms such as abdominal pain and discomfort.

It’s important to note that the effectiveness of antispasmodic agents can vary from person to person, and they are typically prescribed based on the specific symptoms and conditions of the individual. While these medications can provide relief from spasms and associated symptoms, they may also have side effects, such as dry mouth, blurred vision, and constipation, due to their anticholinergic properties. As with any medication, it’s crucial for individuals to use antispasmodic agents under the guidance of a healthcare professional who can tailor the treatment to the patient’s needs and monitor for potential side effects.

4.Antiparkinsonian Agents:

Antiparkinsonian agents are medications used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the progressive loss of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of movement, and its deficiency in Parkinson’s disease leads to motor symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, and bradykinesia (slowness of movement). Antiparkinsonian agents aim to alleviate these symptoms by various mechanisms, including increasing dopamine levels or modulating other neurotransmitters.

Here are some common classes of antiparkinsonian agents and examples within each class:

  1. Dopaminergic Agents:

    • Levodopa (L-DOPA): Levodopa is a precursor to dopamine and is converted to dopamine in the brain. It is often combined with carbidopa (a peripheral decarboxylase inhibitor) to enhance its effectiveness and reduce side effects.

    • Dopamine Agonists: These medications directly stimulate dopamine receptors.

      • Examples: Pramipexole, Ropinirole, Rotigotine.
    • MAO-B Inhibitors (Monoamine Oxidase Type B): These inhibitors prevent the breakdown of dopamine in the brain.

      • Examples: Rasagiline, Selegiline.
    • COMT Inhibitors (Catechol-O-Methyltransferase): These inhibitors prevent the breakdown of levodopa in the periphery, extending its availability in the brain.

      • Examples: Entacapone, Tolcapone.
  2. Anticholinergic Agents:

    • As mentioned earlier, some anticholinergic agents are used to manage tremors and other symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.
      • Examples: Benztropine, Trihexyphenidyl.
  3. Amantadine:

    • Amantadine is an antiviral drug that also has antiparkinsonian effects. Its precise mechanism in Parkinson’s disease is not fully understood, but it may involve increasing dopamine release and blocking glutamate receptors.

It’s important to note that while these medications can be effective in managing motor symptoms, they may also have side effects, and the choice of medication depends on the specific needs and characteristics of the individual patient. Additionally, as Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition, treatment plans may be adjusted over time to address changing symptoms and individual responses to medications. Patients should work closely with their healthcare providers to monitor and optimize their treatment regimens.

5.Neuroleptic Agents:

Neuroleptic agents, also known as antipsychotic medications, are a class of drugs primarily used to manage psychiatric disorders, particularly psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These medications work by modulating the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly dopamine. Neuroleptic agents are classified into two main groups: typical (first-generation) and atypical (second-generation) antipsychotics.

  1. Typical Antipsychotics (First-Generation):
    • Chlorpromazine: Used to treat schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. It has a sedative effect and is sometimes used for managing agitation.
    • Haloperidol: Known for its potent antipsychotic effects, haloperidol is often used in emergency situations for rapid control of severe agitation or psychotic symptoms.
    • Fluphenazine: Used in the treatment of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

Typical antipsychotics primarily block dopamine receptors in the brain, particularly the D2 receptor. While effective in managing psychotic symptoms, they are associated with a higher risk of extrapyramidal side effects, such as Parkinsonian-like symptoms (tremors, rigidity) and tardive dyskinesia (involuntary movements).

  1. Atypical Antipsychotics (Second-Generation):
    • Risperidone: Used for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and irritability associated with autism. It has a lower risk of extrapyramidal side effects compared to typical antipsychotics.
    • Olanzapine: Prescribed for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It is also used for the treatment of acute agitation in some cases.
    • Quetiapine: Used for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder. It has sedative effects and is often prescribed at lower doses for insomnia.
    • Clozapine: Reserved for treatment-resistant schizophrenia due to its effectiveness, but it is associated with the risk of agranulocytosis, a potentially serious blood disorder.
    • Aripiprazole: Used for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and as an adjunctive treatment for major depressive disorder. It has a unique mechanism of partial dopamine receptor agonism.

Atypical antipsychotics are characterized by their lower risk of extrapyramidal side effects but may be associated with metabolic side effects, such as weight gain, diabetes, and dyslipidemia.

The choice between typical and atypical antipsychotics depends on factors like the specific symptoms, the individual’s response to medication, and the side effect profile. Treatment decisions are typically made collaboratively between healthcare providers and patients, taking into consideration the potential benefits and risks of each medication.


                              Anticholinergic medications have potential negative effects despite their therapeutic advantages, particularly when used over extended periods of time. Dry mouth, impaired vision, constipation, urine retention, and cognitive impairment are common adverse effects. The extensive distribution of cholinergic receptors in many bodily tissues is the cause of these adverse effects.

People using anticholinergic drugs should be mindful of any adverse effects and schedule regular check-ups with their physician. Furthermore, older persons should be very cautious while using anticholinergic medications since they may be more vulnerable to negative side effects, such as cognitive impairment.

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