Other Names

Atropin, atropina, atropinum, atropium, DL-hyoscyamine,

d,l-hyoscyaminum, DL-tropyltropate,

(±)-hyoscyamine, 3u( luH,5uH)-tropanyl-(RS)tropate,


Substance type: tropane alkaloid

Atropine was first isolated from the deadly nightshade

(Atropa belladonna) in 1820 by Rudolph

Brandes, who named the compound after the

genus. Atropine is found in many plants of the

Nightshade Family (including the genera Atropa,

Brugmansia, Datura, Hyoscyamus, Latua, Mandragora).

Atropine is chemically related to cocaine

(Willstaedter 1889). It also is closely related to

scopolamine and hyoscyamine. Hyoscyamine,

which is present in many living plants, quickly

racemizes into atropine when the raw drugs are

dried or stored.

A therapeutic dosage is usually considered to

be 1 mg. It is possible that 10 fig is lethal for

children and babies, but not for adults:

Relatively high doses (10 mg atropine sulfate

and above) have a stimulating effect on the

central nervous system, affecting especially

the cerebrum, diencephalon, and medulla

oblongata. The arousal is followed by an

anesthesia-like paralysis that can lead to coma

and a fatal respiratory paralysis. (Roth et al.


The lethal oral dosage for an adult is approximately

100 mg (Roth et al. 1994, 765*).

The range of atropine's effects includes

psychomotor agitation, excitation, constant repetition

of a particular activity pattern, a need to

talk, euphoria, crying spells, confused speech,

hallucinations, spasms, delirium, flushing of the

skin, drying of the mucous membranes, coma,

unconsciousness, and heart arrhythmia (Roth et

al. 1994, 945*). One particularly characteristic

effect is a long-lasting dilation of the pupils (mydriasis).

It is because of this effect that atropine has

long been used in ophthalmology (Jurgens 1930).

Atropine is also utilized as a component in certain

anesthetics (in combination with morphine).

Injections of atropine are often administered prior

to surgery so that the mucous membranes will

remain dry during the procedure and the patient

will not choke on his or her own saliva. Atropine

has also been used to treat asthma (Terray 1909).

When it is given orallyRoute of administration in which the subject swallows a substance., the typical effects of atropine (dry mouth, pupillary dilation, increased

pulse rate) manifest about twice as strong as compared

to intramuscular injection (Mirakhur 1978).

Some of the atropine is excreted in the urine

unchanged (Roth et al. 1994,945*).

Atropine is an important antidote in cases of

poisoning (overdoses) caused by the fungal toxin

muscarine (cf. Inocybe spp.), Digitalis purpurea,

hydrogen cyanide, opium (cf. Papaver somniferum),

and morphine (Rompp 1995, 298*). Overdoses of

atropine can be successfully treated with morphine.

Because of its unpleasant side effects (dryness

of the mouth, difficulties in swallowing, disturbances

in vision, confusion), atropine as a pure

alkaloid has never acquired any cultural significance

as a psychoactive substance. However, the

medical literature does contain a few reports of

"atropine addiction" (Flincker 1932).
Commercial Forms and Regulations

Atropine is available both as a pure substance and

as atropine sulfate. Although regulated as a

dangerous substance, it can be obtained with a

prescription and is not included on any list of

"narcotic drugs" (Koerner 1994, 1573*).


See also the entries for Atropa belladonna, Latua

pubiflora, cocaine, and tropane alkaloids.

Brandes, Rudolph. 1920. -aber das Atropium, ein

neues Alkaloid in den BHittern der Belladonna

(Atropa belladonna 1.). Journal fur Chemie und

Physik 28:9-31.

Flincker, R. 1932. -aber Abstinenz-Erscheinungen bei

Atropin. Munchner Medizinische Wochenschrift


Jurgensen, E. 1930. Atropin im Wandel der Zeiten.

Artztliche Rundschau (Munich; 1930): 5-8.

Ketchum, J. S., F. R. Sidell, E. B. Crowell, G. K.

Aghajanian, andA. H. Hayes. 1973. Atropine,

scopolamine and ditran: Comparative

pharmacology and antagonists in man.

Psychopharmacology 28:121-45.

Mirakhur, R. K. 1978. Comparative study of the

effects of oral and i.m. atropine and hyoscine in

volunteers. British Journal ofAnaesthesia 50 (6):


Terray, Paul von. 1909. -aber Asthma Bronchiale und

dessen Behandlung mit Atropin. Medizinische

Klinik 1 (5): 79-83.

Willstatter, R. 1898. Uber die Constitution der

Spaltungsprodukte von Atropin und Cocain.

Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft


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