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Hyoscine is one of the secondary metabolites produced by some members of the nightshade family. This family includes edible members, such as tomatoes and potatoes, and also a number of toxic plants, such as jimson weed and Datura, that produce this tropane alkaloid drug. Used in both medicine and as a recreational drug, hyoscine is better known as scopolamine. Its most prominent medical use is as a transdermal patch to prevent motion sickness in people who are traveling long distances or scuba diving. There are many other uses for the drug, such as dilating pupils during eye exams and treating intestinal cramping.
This natural product has a long history in folk medicine and witchcraft. It was one of the components in a salve used to induce the sensation of flying. More recently, hyoscine was used in combination with morphine for women in labor to induced “twilight sleep.” These women still felt the pain of giving birth, but had no memory of it. This type of treatment is now strongly discouraged because the effects of this drug on pregnant women are unknown.
The most common use of hyoscine is to treat motion sickness in travelers, and applying a transdermal patch of this drug can relieve the vomiting and nausea associated with this condition. It is applied behind the ear for no more than three days, and if a new patch is needed, it should be applied behind the other ear. Side effects can occur if the patch is left on too long, and include dry mouth, blurred vision, thirst, constipation, dizziness, and drowsiness. If a patient experience an overdose of the drug, it is serious and can cause restlessness, delirium, hallucinations, seizures, coma, and death.
To lower the chance of side effects, a doctor should be informed of any medications or supplements a patient is taking before starting treatment. This includes both prescription drugs and vitamins and supplements. Many substances can interact with hyoscine to cause heightened effects. Patients with glaucoma, liver, heart, and kidney disease, bladder disorders, stomach obstruction, or an enlarged prostate should not take this compound or may require special dosage.
Another common use of hyoscine is in ophthalmology to dilate pupils. This allows an ophthalmologist to see the inside of the eye more easily to determine the health of the eye and the optic nerve. Usage of the drug in this manner does not cause the side effects observed with more systemic uses.
Clinical trials are underway for treatment of major depression and bipolar disorder with hyoscine. Such treatment utilizes a transdermal patch. This lessens the chance of unpleasant and dangerous side effects.
Hyoscine is an anticholinergic drug and decreases fluid secretion as well as stomach and intestinal activity. This has allowed it to be used to treat intestinal cramps. Aside from its potential side effects, if taken too long, the compound can cause a rebound effect. This leads to the production of the symptoms it was taken to cure, such as nausea and abdominal cramping.