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Hyoscine hydrobromide, also known as scopolamine or levo-duboisine, comes from the nightshade plant family and is often used for the treatment of motion sickness. Manufacturers may combine scopolamine with other medications or produce a derivative of the drug. These medications are frequently prescribed for respiratory symptoms or gastrointestinal disorders. Historically, individuals have used hyoscine hydrobromide for criminal and recreational purposes and well as for medical reasons.
The Datura or jimson weed plants produce the belladonna alkaloid used to formulate hyoscine hydrobromide. Also referred to as a tropane alkaloid drug, scopolamine acts by binding to the muscarinic acetylcholine receptors of the central nervous system and smooth muscle. This action inhibits the transmission of acetylcholine, producing an anticholinergic effect. It is thought that the muscarinic antagonist also affects these receptors in the vestibular area of the inner ear, thus inhibiting signals that produce nausea and vomiting.
The anticholinergic properties of hyoscine hydrobromide often produce side effects that include drowsiness and decreased motor function, which may cause a lack of physical coordination. By relaxing the smooth muscles, the medication decreases excretory gland function, inhibiting gastric secretions, perspiration, and salivation. Urinary retention is also a common side effect. Scopolamine usually causes pupil dilation, which may lead to blurred vision, and some individuals may experience an increase in heart rate as well.
Physicians might administer hyoscine hydrobromide prior to anesthesia and surgery in the form of a transdermal patch applied behind the ear. The medication generally eliminates post-operative nausea. Some physicians prescribe methscopolamine bromide in tablet form as part of an ulcer treatment regimen. In some countries, scopolamine is used to reduce the painful muscle spasms associated with colic or irritable bowel syndrome. Scopolamine combined with chlorpheniramine maleate and phenylephrine dries secretions and relieves the nasal congestion that accompany allergies and colds.
During the early part of the 20th century, physicians used hyoscine hydrobromide and morphine prior to childbirth and surgery, as the medication reportedly produced amnesia. This adverse reaction allegedly makes the drug popular with the criminal element in some countries. Persons under the influence of the drug are reported to behave submissively, while having no memory of events. Scopolamine is also said to be one of the drugs used to induce zombie like states in Haitian culture.
In sufficient quantities, hyoscine hydrobromide may produce euphoria or hallucinations. These symptoms entice some to abuse it in conjunction with opioids. History also reports that certain occult practitioners used the plant in topical “flying ointments” and potions for its hallucinogenic properties.