Dictionary Definition

anticholinergic adj : inhibiting or blocking the action of acetylcholine at a receptor site; "anticholinergic drugs" [ant: cholinergic] n : a substance that opposes or blocks the action of acetylcholine [syn: anticholinergic drug]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. That inhibits the physiological action of acetylcholine at a receptor site


inhibiting the action of acetylcholine


  1. Any of a class of drugs with this action that are used to treat various disorders and some forms of poisoning

Extensive Definition

An anticholinergic agent is a substance which blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the central and the peripheral nervous system. An example of an anticholinergic is dicyclomine. Generally speaking, it reduces the effects mediated by acetylcholine on acetylcholine receptors in neurons through competitive inhibition. The effect is therefore reversible.
Anticholinergics are classified according to the receptors that are affected:


When a significant amount of an anticholinergic is taken into the body, a toxic reaction known as acute anticholinergic syndrome may result. This may happen accidentally or intentionally as a consequence of recreational drug use. Anticholinergic drugs are usually considered the least "fun" by experienced recreational drug users, possibly due to the lack of euphoria caused by them. (For some of the "recreational" effects, see the article on deliriants.) Because most users do not enjoy the experience, they do not use it again, or do so very rarely. The risk of addiction is low in the anticholinergic class. The effects are usually more pronounced in the elderly, due to the decrease of acetylcholine production associated with age.
Possible effects of anticholinergics include:
Possible effects in the central nervous system resemble those associated with delirium, and may include:
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Agitation
  • Respiratory depression
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Wandering thoughts; inability to sustain a train of thought
  • Incoherent speech
  • Wakeful myoclonic jerking
  • Unusual sensitivity to sudden sounds
  • Illogical thinking
  • Photophobia
  • Visual disturbances
    • Periodic flashes of light
    • Periodic changes in visual field
    • Visual snow
    • Restricted or "tunnel vision"
  • Visual, auditory, or other sensory hallucinations
    • Warping or waving of surfaces and edges
    • Textured surfaces
    • "Dancing" lines; "spiders", insects
    • Lifelike objects indistinguishable from reality
  • Rarely: seizures, coma and death
Acute anticholinergic syndrome is completely reversible and subsides once all of the toxin has been excreted. Ordinarily, no specific treatment is indicated. However, in extreme cases, especially those that involves severe distortions of mental state, a reversible cholinergic agent such as physostigmine may be used.

Plant sources

The most common plants containing anticholinergic alkaloids are:

Use as a deterrent

Certain preparations of some drugs, such as Hydrocodone, are mixed with an anticholinergic agent to deter intentional overdose. http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/fda/fdaDrugXsl.cfm?id=5209&type=display

External links

  • National Library of Medicine - Medical Subject Headings:
anticholinergic in Arabic: مضادات الكولين
anticholinergic in Catalan: Anticolinèrgic
anticholinergic in German: Anticholinergikum
anticholinergic in Spanish: Anticolinérgico
anticholinergic in French: Anticholinergique
anticholinergic in Japanese: 抗コリン薬
anticholinergic in Polish: Cholinolityki
anticholinergic in Portuguese: Anticolinérgico
anticholinergic in Slovak: Anticholinergikum
anticholinergic in Swedish: Antikolinergika
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