Definition of Scopolamine

Scopolamine: A naturally occurring member of a large chemical class of compounds called alkaloids. Scopolamine was first introduced into medical usage in 1902. The name comes from that of the 18th-century Italian naturalist Giovanni Scopoli.

Scopolamine and atropine, comes from the plant Atropa belladonna also called "deadly nightshade." It was once used by the Spanish ladies to dilate their pupils and make their cheeks rosy. It has also been used as a poison. When scopolamine is given in lower (non-poisonous) doses, it causes "mad as a hatter, dry as a beet, hot as a hen" hallucinations, fever, flushed skin and cardiac arrhythmias. The jimson weed seeds are sometimes used for this sense of euphoria (a "high").

Scopolamine together with morphine provided childbirth without pain (or without the memory of pain), once a much sought-after objective. Known as twilight sleep, this combination of drugs could cause serious problems. It completely removed the mother from the birth experience and it gravely depressed the baby's central nervous system. This sometimes made for a drowsy depressed baby with depressed breathing capacity. Twilight sleep therefore has fallen entirely out of favor and is now a chapter in the history of obstetrics.


Last Editorial Review: 9/20/2012

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