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Aricept Medication: Is This Really A Memory Drug?

Brand name: Aricept

Generic name: Donepezil hydrochloride

Aricept medication: Why is this drug prescribed?

Aricept medication is one of only two drugs that have been found to provide some relief from symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease. Aricept medication does not stop the progress of the underlying disease but may improve brain function in some sufferers of early Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease causes physical changes in the brain that interfere with the flow of information and disrupts memory, thinking and results in behavioral changes. These changes seem to be temporarily improved with the use of Aricept medication.

Aricept medication: Important information to know

In order to gain the benefits and maintain any improvement, Aricept must be taken on a regular basis. If it is stopped or taken irregularly, its benefits may be reduced or lost. You must also have some patience when starting this medication as it may take up to three weeks for any positive effects.

When should the Aricept medication not be prescribed?

Most geriatric doctors believe that there are least two main reasons to avoid Aricept: if you have an allergic reaction to the medication, or an allergic reaction to the group of antihistamines that includes Claritin, Allegra, Atarax, Periactin, Optimine, Nolahist and Hismanal.

Aricept medication: What if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding?

Since Aricept medication has not been prescribed for women of childbearing age it has not been tested among women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. Also, it has not been studied whether Aricept medication appears in breast milk and is therefore a threat to a feeding infant.

Aricept Side Effects and Special Warnings

What are some of the Aricept side effects that I may expect?

While specific Aricept side effects should not really be anticipated, if any develop or increase in intensity you need to contact your physician immediately. Only your doctor can determine if it is safe to continue this Alzheimer’s medication in spite of your or your loved one’s Aricept side effects.

Aricept side effects are usually more likely in higher doses and include diarrhea, fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting. These are some of the more common side effects of this medication. When these side effects occur they are usually relatively mild and frequently get better as your treatment continues.

Other Aricept side effects may include:

Abnormal dreams, arthritis, bruising, depression, dizziness, fainting, frequent urination, headache, pain, sleepiness, weight-loss

Aricept side effects and special warnings:

This medication can increase the risk of seizures and aggravate asthma and other problems that you may have with your breathing. It can also cause fainting in people with heart conditions and may possibly slow your heartbeat. Obviously, you should always contact your physician if any of these problems occur. For individuals who take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Aleve, Advil, or Nuprin, or for individuals who have had stomach ulcers, Aricept can possibly make your stomach side effects worse. You should always be cautious when taking this or any drug, and report all Aricept side effects to your doctor.

Aricept side effects and food and drug interactions:

In addition to the Aricept side effects, this medication may increase the effects of certain anesthetics. You should always make sure your doctor is aware that an individual is on Aricept prior to any surgeries. Aricept may also increase, decrease or otherwise alter the effects of other drugs. It is especially important to check with your doctor when taking Aricept with any of the following medications:

• Antispasmodic drugs such as Bentyl, Cogentin, and Pro-Banthine
• Bethanechol chloride (Urecholine)
• Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
• Dexamethasone (Decadron)
• Ketoconazole (Nizoral)
• Phenobarbital
• Phenytoin (Dilantin)
• Quinidine (Quinidex)
• Rifampin (Rifadin, Rifamate)

Although the above list of special precautions is fairly comprehensive, it does not include every possible Aricept side effect. You should always contact your physician if you experience any problematic concerns or any other medication related side effect that appears to be out of the ordinary.

Aricept dosages: How much is too much?

Aricept dosages: How is this medication taken?

Your Aricept dosage should be taken once a day, just before bedtime. It is very important to understand however, that your Aricept dosage must be taken every day. If Aricept is not taking regularly it will not work. This memory drug can be taken either with or without food.

If you miss your Aricept dosage…

You should take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is relatively close to the time for your next dose, you should skip the one that you missed and get back to your regular dosage schedule. You should never double your dose. Aricept should always be stored at room temperature.

Recommended Aricept dosage:


The usual starting Aricept dosage is 5 mg. once a day at bedtime, for a period of at least four to six weeks. You should not increase your dosage through this period of time unless you’ve been directed to do so by your physician. If it is warranted, your doctor may increase your Aricept dosage to as high as 10 mg.


Aricept has not been tested among children for either safety or effectiveness.

Aricept overdosage:

Any medication taken in excess of the recommended amount can be dangerous to your health. If you suspect an overdosage of Aricept you need to contact your doctor immediately or seek medical attention.

Symptoms of Aricept overdosage include:

Collapse, convulsions, extreme muscle weakness (possibly ending in death), low blood pressure, nausea, salivation, slowed heart rate, sweating, vomiting

Taking your Aricept dosage as prescribed is incredibly important. The only way to receive the benefits of this effective Alzheimer’s medication is consistently and accurately taking your Aricept dosage.

By Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist

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