Diphenoxylate with atropine is a medication that treats certain forms of severe diarrhea. The drug is not suitable for all populations and may be contraindicated in the presence of some medical conditions or with the use of some other medicines. Like all medications, it also has mild to severe side effects, which should be considered.
A couple of actions the two drugs perform make the combination formula effective in halting diarrhea. Atropine reduces the body’s production of liquid and the speed at which the bowels and intestines work. Diphenoxylate creates a constipating effect that resembles the way opioids work.
As effective as the drug may be, there are specific directions for its use that must be followed. Diphenoxylate with atropine needs to be taken with plenty of water or electrolyte-balanced fluids. Otherwise, the atropine in the drug may result in dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. This effect and other adverse reactions are very likely in children, particularly if too much medication is given. Used for long periods of time, the two drugs can also foster dependence, and they require tapered dose reductions to avoid withdrawal.
Even when used with care, diphenoxylate with atropine isn’t appropriate to all people. Those with bacterial infections of the gut like e. coli or with post-antibiotic severe diarrhea aren’t good candidates. Patients who are currently suffering from dehydration, colitis, or liver disease shouldn’t use this medication. Further, the drug is often not suitable for children under two, pregnant or nursing women, and people with Down syndrome.
Diphenoxylate with atropine also interacts with a number of medications, which may contraindicate its use or change the dose given. It causes central nervous system (CNS) side effects, which are often magnified by other drugs that do the same. These include narcotics, anti-anxiety meds, and antipsychotics. Additionally, barbiturates, antihistamines, and opioids affect the CNS. Many other medications may create unpleasant or dangerous interactions with this drug, and patients can best avoid these by giving their doctor a complete list of all drugs, supplements or herbal products they use.
Understanding the side effects of diphenoxylate with atropine is somewhat complicated. As a group, children tend to have much stronger reactions to the drug and may be especially affected with CNS symptoms or dehydration issues. Thus, symptoms of dehydration, drowsy or tired feelings, dizziness and mood changes need to be understood on a continuum. They may be minimal or significant, and this is often dependent on age. Other side effects that are considered mild and not particularly age-dependent are blurred vision and headaches.
Severe adverse reactions that adults or children may experience need immediate medical care. These include an allergic reaction to the drug, which is marked by hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face, mouth, and tongue. Extreme depression or inner restlessness, akathisia, is also possible. Severe nausea or vomiting, with or without stomach pain, is a cause for concern. Profound dehydration, as expressed by confusion, listlessness, and severe vomiting, needs emergency medical help.