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Guide to Metoclopramide

written by: Leigh A. Zaykoski•edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski•updated: 10/31/2009

Use this guide to learn about metoclopramide, a drug that is used to treat nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting caused by some digestive system problems.

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    Drug Uses

    Some digestive system disorders cause bothersome or uncomfortable symptoms such as nausea and abdominal pain. These symptoms can be controlled with metoclopramide, which is marketed under the brand name Reglan. This drug can be given as an injection or taken orally, making it useful in treating patients who have nausea and vomiting and can't keep oral medications down long enough for them to take effect. While this drug is a useful one for treating specific digestive symptoms, it does have some risks and potential side effects that should be reviewed before it is prescribed.

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    Drug Action

    Reglan works by increasing the speed of stomach emptying, which makes food leave the stomach and enter the small intestine more quickly. This drug also makes the stomach and intestines contract more, which helps to treat acid reflux and gastroparesis (delayed emptying of the stomach). People who are being treated for cancer may also use this drug to treat the side effects of radiation therapy or chemotherapy treatments.

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    Warnings

    This drug should not be taken by anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding, unless it is prescribed by a doctor as medically necessary. Do not drive after taking this drug for the first time, as it can cause drowsiness. Wait to see how the drug affects you before operating a vehicle or heavy equipment. Elderly people are affected more by this and other drugs, so it should be used with caution. The elderly are also more affected by side effects such as uncontrolled shaking, drowsiness, and confusion. Metoclopramide has been linked to a very severe condition known as neuroleptic malignant syndrome. Call your doctor if you experience a high fever, sweating, and muscle stiffness. These can be signs of neuroleptic malignant syndrome.

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    Side Effects and Interactions

    Metoclopramide can cause side effects that include headache, drowsiness, fatigue, sleep problems, diarrhea, dizziness, constipation, and dry mouth. Contact a medical professional if you experience mood changes, restlessness, suicidal thoughts, urinary incontinence, and discharge from the nipples. Scopolamine, benztropine, and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can block Reglan and make it ineffective. Do not take this medication with sleep drugs, psychiatric medications, antihistamines, MAO inhibitors, or drugs used to treat seizures.