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Aricept for Brain Injury: Understanding the Benefits and Side Effects

woman reading label of bottle of aricept for brain injury while doctor writes instructions in the background

Can Aricept help brain injury patients improve their memory skills?

There are several promising studies that indicate Aricept may be a helpful medication for TBI survivors. However, it should not replace traditional cognitive therapy.

To help you better understand this drug treatment, you’re about to learn how Aricept works and some of the benefits and side effects associated with it.

How Aricept Works

Aricept (Donepazil) prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine in brain tissue. It is commonly used to treat mild to moderate dementia symptoms.

Acetylcholine (ACh) is the most abundant neurotransmitter in the human body and is found in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. It serves several critical functions, such as:

  • Stimulating muscles to contract
  • Helping the brain with motivation, arousal, attention, learning, and memory.

ACh also plays a role in promoting REM sleep.

However, after a traumatic brain injury, the brain loses a significant amount of cholinergic neurons, and the production of ACh is reduced.

Because Aricept prevents acetylcholine from breaking down, this could increase the amount available in the brain. With more ACh available, brain function should improve.

Benefits of Aricept for Brain Injury

smiling woman in sunshine feeling happy

Aricept appears to offer some cognitive benefits for brain injury patients.

For example, a few studies indicate that visual memory improves after four weeks of using Aricept.

Other studies show significant improvements in processing speed, learning, and attention. These studies used a small sample size, however, so the researchers refrained from making any general conclusions from it.

Subjective Improvements

There are also other, more subjective, benefits to using Aricept for brain injury

In one open-label trial, brain injury patients were given 5 mg of Aricept daily for four weeks.

Interestingly, although few objective improvements occurred, most of the patients chose to remain on the drug after the trial ended. When asked why they continued, the patients said they felt more clarity of thought while using it.

In fact, several of them claimed that they could think faster and were able to keep multiple ideas in mind at once. Family members also reported that the person’s socialization skills improved while they were on the drug.

While these are mostly subjective benefits, they do indicate that Aricept might be a treatment worth trying for patients with cognitive deficits.

Side Effects of Aricept

The side effects of Aricept are mostly mild but can include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Sleep problems
  • Muscle cramps
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

More serious side effects can include painful urination, seizures, and chest pain. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

How to Use Aricept for Brain Injury

doctor talking to patient about using aricept for brain injury

Aricept can lessen the severity of your cognitive deficits and give you more mental clarity, but it won’t eliminate your problems.

Therefore, to ensure that you make a good recovery from brain injury, you must maximize the effects of neuroplasticity. This will allow your brain to reorganize itself and recover function.

For example, to improve your cognition, therapists recommend you practice cognitive rehab exercises every day. These will stimulate your brain and help it recover faster.

All of this means that Aricept can act as a boost for your therapy, but it cannot replace it. Try your best to practice cognitive exercises on a consistent basis to maximize your chances of recovery.

Should You Try Aricept for Brain Injury?

Aricept increases the amount of acetylcholine in the brain, which improves functions such as attention, motivation, and memory.

Although studies do not show huge objective improvements in brain injury patients using Aricept, many patients report subjective benefits. These benefits include greater clarity of mind and better social skills.

Therefore, Aricept may be worth trying, especially if you feel stuck in recovery. It could give you the boost you need to start making progress again. However, it should not replace traditional therapy.

We hope this article helps you make an informed decision about using Aricept for brain injury. Good luck!

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