Scopolamine prevents and relieves motion sickness - but possibly with more adverse effects than alternatives

Sea sickness, car sickness and other forms of motion sickness affect almost everyone at some time.

Fairground rides, virtual rides and even movies shot with shaky cameras can bring on that familiar nausea, vomiting and headaches. Today Informed Health Online has published a short report on one of the most common treatments for motion sickness: scopolamine. According to Hilda Bastian, editor of the consumer web site, Informed Health Online, "Scopolamine patches work better than some other treatments, but it's possible that alternatives might be as good, with fewer side effects."

Researchers from the Cochrane Collaboration have analysed all trials of scopolamine for motion sickness. They found 12 trials, mostly done in healthy young men in the navy.

DrJason Wasiak from the research team said that, "Scopolamine was more effective than placebo in the prevention of symptoms. Comparisons between scopolamine and other drugs were few and suggested that scopolamine was superior or equivalent as a preventative agent, but more research is needed. Scopolamine is a sedative, and it can depress the central nervous system. Adverse effects in the form of level of drowsiness, blurred vision, dry mouth and dizziness were reported amongst the studies."

The researchers concluded that more research was needed to compare scopolamine with alternative preventive measures, and to test the drug's effectiveness as a treatment for motion sickness.

Alternatives to scopolamine include antihistamines (such as cinnarizine, which is in motion sickness products like Stugeron) and dimenhydrinate (in products such as Dramamine). Non-drug options for motion sickness have not been compared with scopolamine. These include actions and behaviours that might help avoid motion sickness, and traditional remedies like ginger ale, herbal medicines and acupressure wrist bands.

Another team of researchers have recently studied the evidence from 26 trials about acupressure wrist bands to prevent nausea and vomiting after surgery, and found them to be effective. "Motion sickness can be a miserable experience, and it would be good to know which of the drugs can work with the least side effects. As some non-drug alternatives usually have very few side effects, we need to know how well they compare with the drug options. Acupressure wrist bands have been shown to work in other circumstances, and may be worth trying for people who want to avoid motion sickness without drugs."

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