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What is Reserpine?

By Amy Hunter
Updated May 17, 2024
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Reserpine is a tablet, taken orally, that treats the symptoms of high blood pressure and psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia. Reserpine lowers blood pressure by lowering certain chemicals in the blood stream, relaxing and widening the blood vessels. The medication treats psychotic illnesses by reducing delusions, hallucinations, fear, agitation, and hostility. It is developed from the dried roots of the Indian snakeroot plant. Newer, more effective, drugs have led to a decline in the use of this medication.

Reserpine should not be taken with alcohol, as this may increase metabolism of the medication. Take care to avoid becoming overheated while taking this medication, particularly during exercise or hot weather. Reserpine does not cure psychotic illnesses or high blood pressure, it treats the symptoms. It is important to continue taking reserpine even if symptoms subside.

Potentially serious side effects of this medication include uncontrollable movement of the legs, arms, or hands, an irregular heartbeat, or heart failure. Symptoms of heart failure include a sudden weight gain of at least five pounds (2.3 kilograms), chest pain, or swelling in the legs and ankles. An allergic reaction is also possible. Symptoms include closing of the throat, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, including the lips or tongue, and hives. Mild side effects of reserpine include weight gain, stomach cramps, diarrhea, dry mouth, nausea, nasal congestion, and vomiting.

Reserpine may be contraindicated in patients that have heart disease, gallstones, kidney disease, suicidal thoughts, stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, depression, or take MAO inhibitors. Take this medication with a full glass of water, milk, or a light meal. Do not consume alcohol while taking the medication. It is important not to discontinue use suddenly, and to consult a physician before taking any other medications. Signs of overdose include a slow pulse, low body temperature, diarrhea, depressed breathing, and low blood pressure. Signs of low blood pressure include weakness, dizziness, and fainting.

Reserpine is also used in veterinary medicine. This medication has a long-acting sedative effect on horses, and is often used on horses that are on stall rest due to injury or illness. Some unscrupulous individuals use the medication on sale or show horses to give the impression of a calmer animal. Most governing bodies prohibit its use in competition. Signs of use include a general depressed demeanor, dropped penis in a gelding or stallion, and droopy eyelids.

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