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Why is this medication prescribed?
Reserpine is used to treat high blood pressure. It also is used to treat severe agitation in patients with mental disorders. Reserpine is in a class of medications called rauwolfia alkaloids. It works by slowing the activity of the nervous system, causing the heartbeat to slow and the blood vessels to relax.
High blood pressure is a common condition and when not treated, can cause damage to the brain, heart, blood vessels, kidneys and other parts of the body. Damage to these organs may cause heart disease, a heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, loss of vision, and other problems. In addition to taking medication, making lifestyle changes will also help to control your blood pressure. These changes include eating a diet that is low in fat and salt, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising at least 30 minutes most days, not smoking, and using alcohol in moderation.
How should this medicine be used?
Reserpine comes as a tablet to take by mouth. It usually is taken once daily. Take reserpine at around the same time every day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take reserpine exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
Reserpine controls high blood pressure or symptoms of agitation, but does not cure them. Continue to take reserpine even if you feel well. Do not stop taking reserpine without talking to your doctor. If you suddenly stop taking reserpine you may develop high blood pressure and experience unwanted side effects.
Other uses for this medicine
This medication may be be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
What special precautions should I follow?
Before taking reserpine,
- Tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to reserpine, aspirin, any other medications, tartrazine (a yellow dye in some processed foods and medications), or any of the ingredients in reserpine tablets. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for a list of the ingredients.
- Tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, or herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention any of the following: amitriptyline; clomipramine (Anafranil), desipramine (Norpramin), digoxin (Lanoxin), doxepin (Silenor), ephedrine, epinephrine, imipramine (Tofranil), monoamine oxidase (MAO inhibitors such as isoxcarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam, Zelapar); tranylcypromine (Parnate), methylphenidate (Concerta, Metadate, Ritalin, others), nortriptyline (Pamelor), phenylephrine, protriptyline (Vivactil), quinidine, and trimipramine (Surmontil). Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
- Tell your doctor if you have or have ever had kidney disease, gallstones, ulcers, ulcerative colitis (a condition which causes swelling and sores in the lining of the colon [large intestine] and rectum), a history of depression, or have received electric shock therapy.
- Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking reserpine, call your doctor.
- Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking reserpine if you are 65 years of age or older. Older adults should not usually take high doses of reserpine because it is not as safe as other medications that can be used to treat the same condition.
- If you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking reserpine.
- You should know that this medication may make you drowsy or dizzy. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how it affects you.
- Ask your doctor about the safe use of alcohol while you are taking reserpine. Alcohol can make the side effects from reserpine worse.
What special dietary instructions should I follow?
Your doctor may prescribe a low-salt or low-sodium diet. Follow these directions carefully.
What should I do if I forget a dose?
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
What side effects can this medication cause?
Reserpine may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- Loss of appetite
- Upset stomach
- Stuffy nose
- Dry mouth
- Decreased sexual ability
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- Slow heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Swollen ankles or feet
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch) or by phone (1-800-332-1088).
Reserpine may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while you are taking this medication.
What should I know about storage and disposal of this medication?
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom).
Unneeded medications should be disposed of in special ways to ensure that pets, children, and other people cannot consume them. However, you should not flush this medication down the toilet. Instead, the best way to dispose of your medication is through a medicine take-back program. Talk to your pharmacist or contact your local garbage/recycling department to learn about take-back programs in your community. See the FDA’s Safe Disposal of Medicines website (http://goo.gl/c4Rm4p) for more information if you do not have access to a take-back program.
It is important to keep all medication out of sight and reach of children as many containers (such as weekly pill minders and those for eye drops, creams, patches, and inhalers) are not child-resistant and young children can open them easily. To protect young children from poisoning, always lock safety caps and immediately place the medication in a safe location – one that is up and away and out of their sight and reach. http://www.upandaway.org
In case of emergency/overdose
In case of overdose, call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222. Information is also available online at https://www.poisonhelp.org/help. If the victim has collapsed, had a seizure, has trouble breathing, or can’t be awakened, immediately call emergency services at 911.
What other information should I know?
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your blood pressure should be checked regularly to determine your response to reserpine.
Your doctor may ask you to check your pulse (heart rate) daily and will tell you how rapid it should be. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to teach you how to take your pulse. If your pulse is slower than it should be, call your doctor before taking reserpine that day.
Weigh yourself every day. Call your doctor if you experience rapid weight gain.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.