Aricept (donepezil) is a prescription drug that’s used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Aricept comes as a tablet that’s swallowed. It’s usually taken once per day.
Aricept contains the active ingredient donepezil. (An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.) Aricept is a brand-name medication that’s also available as the generic drug donepezil.
Aricept is prescribed to adults with mild, moderate, or advanced Alzheimer’s disease. It’s used to treat symptoms of dementia, including problems with memory loss, thinking, and language. To learn more about its uses, see “What is Aricept used for?” below.
Your doctor will recommend the dosage of Aricept that’s right for you. Below are commonly used dosages, but always take the dosage your doctor prescribes.
Aricept is available as a tablet that you swallow.
Strengths: 5 mg, 10 mg, 23 mg
Aricept tablet is available in three strengths: 5 milligrams (mg), 10 mg, and 23 mg.
You’ll take your dose of Aricept once each evening before going to bed. Try to take your dose of Aricept at about the same time each evening so that you have a consistent amount of medication in your body. This can improve how well the medication works for you.
To learn more about Aricept’s dosage, see this article.
Questions about Aricept’s dosing
Below are some common questions about Aricept’s dosing.
What if I miss a dose of Aricept? If you miss your dose of Aricept, skip your missed dose. Then, take your next dose at your usual time. You should not take 2 doses of Aricept at once to make up for a missed dose.
If you miss your dose of Aricept for more than 7 days, you should talk with your doctor before you take your next dose. They may suggest restarting at a lower dose before taking your usual dose again.
Will I need to use Aricept long term? Aricept is usually a long-term treatment. If Aricept is working well for you, you’ll likely take it long term.
How long does Aricept take to work? It can take a few weeks before Aricept is at a constant level in your body. This means that it may take at least a few weeks before it begins to work.
People respond to Aricept differently. It’s important to discuss your symptoms with your doctor throughout your treatment. They can help determine if the drug is working well for you.
Like most drugs, Aricept may cause mild or serious side effects (also known as adverse effects). The lists below describe some of the more common side effects that Aricept may cause. These lists don’t include all possible side effects.
Keep in mind that side effects of a drug can depend on:
- your age
- other health conditions you have
- other medications you take
Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about the potential side effects of Aricept. They can also suggest ways to help reduce side effects.
Mild side effects
Here’s a list of some of the mild side effects that Aricept can cause. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or read Aricept’s prescribing information.
Mild side effects of Aricept that have been reported include:
- decreased appetite
- muscle cramps
- insomnia (trouble sleeping)
- fatigue (low energy)
- weight loss
- bruising of the skin
- mild allergic reaction*
Mild side effects of many drugs may go away within a few days to a couple of weeks. But if they become bothersome, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Allergic reaction” section below.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects from Aricept can occur, but they aren’t common. If you have serious side effects from Aricept, call your doctor right away. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, you should call 911 or your local emergency number.
Serious side effects of Aricept that have been reported include:
- slow heartbeat or heart block
- serious nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- peptic ulcers
- bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract
- problems with urination, such as blockage where urine exits the bladder
- changes in mood, like depression or hostility
- abnormal dreams or nightmares
- severe allergic reaction*
* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Allergic reaction” section below.
Some people may have an allergic reaction to Aricept.
Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:
A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include swelling under your skin, usually in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet. They can also include swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat, which can cause trouble breathing.
Call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction to Aricept. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number.
Dementia is a general term used to describe a group of symptoms related to memory and thinking. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease affects your ability to remember, communicate, plan, and think clearly. The symptoms get worse with time. Early symptoms may include occasional forgetfulness and losing track of time. People with more advanced symptoms may lose their ability to communicate, care for themselves, or recognize family members.
Aricept can be used at any stage of Alzheimer’s disease. It can be used when the dementia symptoms are mild, moderate, or advanced.
The cause of Alzheimer’s disease isn’t known, but one contributing factor may be low levels of a certain chemical messenger in the brain. This chemical messenger is called acetylcholine. Aricept helps increase levels of acetylcholine. It does this by blocking an enzyme (a type of protein) that breaks down acetylcholine. This allows acetylcholine to build up in the brain.
Find answers to some commonly asked questions about Aricept.
How does Aricept compare with other similar drugs, such as Namenda?
Aricept and memantine (Namenda, Namenda XR) are both used to treat dementia symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s disease, but they work in different ways. One drug may be better at helping certain symptoms than the other drug. Sometimes these drugs are taken together.
Aricept and memantine may also cause different side effects. For example, some common side effects of Aricept are nausea and loss of appetite. Whereas common side effects of memantine include headaches and dizziness.
Finally, Aricept is used to treat all stages of Alzheimer’s disease, but memantine is only used to treat moderate to advanced stages.
Some other drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease are rivastigmine (Exelon) and galantamine (Razadyne ER). Like Aricept, they increase the amount of acetylcholine in the brain. (Acetylcholine is a chemical messenger.) But each drug is still unique, and one may work better for you than another.
If you have questions about which drug might be best for you, talk with your doctor.
Can Aricept be used for vascular dementia or ADHD?
Aricept is only approved to treat Alzheimer’s disease, but it may be used off-label for other reasons. With off-label use, doctors prescribe a drug for a purpose other than what it’s approved for.
If you have vascular dementia or ADHD and are looking for more information on treatment options, talk with your doctor. They can recommend the best treatment plan for you.
Will I experience certain side effects when stopping Aricept?
You shouldn’t experience side effects when you stop taking Aricept. But it’s possible that you’ll experience a return of your dementia symptoms.
Don’t stop taking Aricept without talking with your doctor first. If you and your doctor decide it’s not the right medication for you, your doctor may recommend that you gradually decrease your dose over a couple weeks before stopping the drug altogether.
If you have concerns about side effects from Aricept or are thinking about stopping treatment, talk with your doctor.
How does Aricept work?
Aricept allows the chemical messenger acetylcholine to build up in the brain. It does this by blocking the enzyme (protein) that’s responsible for breaking down acetylcholine.
The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown, but low levels of acetylcholine in the brain is thought to be a factor.
Aricept increases acetylcholine levels in the brain, improves dementia symptoms, and may slow down the progression of the disease. (With progression, a disease becomes worse over time.)
If you have questions or concerns about how Aricept works, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Costs of prescription drugs can vary depending on many factors. These factors include what your health insurance plan covers and which pharmacy you use.
Aricept is available as the generic drug donepezil. Generics usually cost less than brand-name drugs. Talk with your doctor if you’d like to know about taking donepezil.
Visit this page to access Optum Perks coupons and get price estimates for Aricept when you use the coupons. These coupons can provide significant savings on your prescription costs.
Note: Optum Perks coupons cannot be used with any insurance copays or benefits.
You can also check out this article to learn more about saving money on prescriptions.
Taking a medication with certain vaccines, foods, and other things can affect how the medication works. These effects are called interactions.
Before taking Aricept, be sure to tell your doctor about all medications you take, including prescription and over-the-counter types. Also describe any vitamins, herbs, or supplements you use. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you about any interactions these items may cause with Aricept.
For information about drug-condition interactions, see the “Warnings ” section below.
Interactions with drugs or supplements
Aricept can interact with several types of drugs. These drugs include:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including:
- ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Midol)
- naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)
- other cholinesterase blockers (similar to Aricept), such as rivastigmine (Exelon)
- certain seizure medications, such as phenytoin (Dilantin, Phenytek)
- some heart medications, such as quinidine
- some antifungal drugs, such as ketoconazole
- the tuberculosis drug rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane)
- some steroid medications, such as prednisone (Rayos)
This list does not contain all types of drugs that may interact with Aricept. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about these interactions and any others that may occur with Aricept.
Aricept can sometimes cause harmful effects in people who have certain conditions. This is known as a drug-condition interaction. Other factors may also affect whether Aricept is a good treatment option for you.
Talk with your doctor about your health history before you take Aricept. If any of the conditions below apply to you, your doctor will want to know. It’s possible that they may decide Aricept isn’t the best option for you. Or they may choose to monitor you more closely for side effects.
Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Aricept or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe Aricept. Ask them which medications are better options for you.
Bladder problems. Aricept may cause bladder neck obstruction. The bladder neck is where urine exits the bladder. If you have problems emptying your bladder, such as from an enlarged prostate or vaginal prolapse, taking Aricept may make your condition worse.
Low body weight. If you weigh less than 55 kilograms (about 120 pounds), you may have an increased risk of side effects from Aricept.
Lung conditions. If you have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), or another lung problem, taking Aricept may increase your risk of bronchospasm (narrowed airways and breathing problems).
Upcoming surgery, medical procedures, or dental work. Aricept interacts with certain medications that may be given during general anesthesia. Tell the doctors or dentists performing the procedure that you take Aricept. This way they can plan a safe anesthetic for you.
Aricept and alcohol
Aricept and alcohol are not known to interact. But if you have Alzheimer’s disease, it’s recommended that you not drink alcohol. Drinking alcohol may increase your risk of injury. And it may make your Alzheimer’s disease worse with time.
If you do drink alcohol while taking Aricept, it’s possible for alcohol to increase the risk of certain side effects from Aricept. For example, both alcohol and Aricept can cause nausea. Taking them together may increase the risk of nausea. And if you already have nausea from Aricept, drinking alcohol may make it worse.
If you have questions about consuming alcohol with your condition or treatment plan, talk with your doctor.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
It’s not known whether Aricept is safe to take during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Aricept hasn’t been studied in adults who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
It’s also not known whether Aricept may be present in breastmilk or what effects the drug may have on a breastfed child.
If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning either, talk with your doctor about your options.
Your doctor will explain how you should take Aricept. They’ll also explain how much to take and how often. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.
Aricept should be taken every evening before you go to bed. It can be taken with or without food.
Aricept comes as a tablet that you swallow.
If you take the 23-milligram (mg) strength Aricept tablet, you should swallow the tablet whole. Do not crush, chew, or split this tablet. If you have trouble swallowing tablets, talk with your doctor.
If you’re prescribed the 5-mg or 10-mg strength tablets, you may crush or split them before swallowing. They may also be swallowed whole.
If you have additional questions or concerns about how to take Aricept, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Accessible medication containers and labels
If it’s hard for you to read the label on your prescription, tell your doctor or pharmacist. Certain pharmacies may provide medication labels that:
- have large print
- use braille
- contain a code you can scan with a smartphone to change the text into audio
Your doctor or pharmacist may be able to recommend a pharmacy that offers these options if your current pharmacy doesn’t.
Also, if you’re having trouble opening your medication bottles, let your pharmacist know. They may be able to put Aricept in an easy-open container. Your pharmacist may also recommend tools to help make it simpler to open the drug’s container.
Taking Aricept with other drugs
In some cases, your doctor may recommend taking Aricept along with another medication called memantine (Namenda, Namenda XR). These two drugs work in different ways and may improve different dementia symptoms. Memantine may also slow progression of Alzheimer’s disease. (With progression, the disease becomes worse with time.)
A combination drug is also available. Namzaric contains both memantine and Aricept’s active ingredient, donepezil.
Questions about taking Aricept
Below are some common questions about taking Aricept.
- Can Aricept be chewed, crushed, or split? If you take 23-milligram (mg) strength tablets, you should not chew, crush, or split the tablets. The 5-mg and 10-mg strength tablets may be crushed or split, if you like. If you have trouble swallowing Aricept tablets, talk with your doctor.
- Should I take Aricept with food? You can take your dose of Aricept with or without food.
- Is there a best time of day to take Aricept? You should take your dose of Aricept each evening before you go to bed. Taking this drug around the same time each evening helps to keep a steady level of the drug in your body. And this helps Aricept work most effectively.
Do not take more Aricept than your doctor prescribes. Using more than this can lead to harmful effects.
Effects of overdose
Taking too much Aricept can cause a high level of acetylcholine in your body. This can cause a serious condition called cholinergic crisis. Symptoms of a cholinergic crisis include:
- severe nausea or vomiting
- excess saliva or drooling
- slow heartbeat
- low blood pressure
- slow, shallow breathing
- muscle weakness, including those involved in breathing
In extreme cases, cholinergic crisis can lead to death.
What to do in case you take too much Aricept
Call your doctor if you think you’ve taken too much Aricept. You can also call 800-222-1222 to reach America’s Poison Centers or use its online resource. But if you have severe symptoms, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number. Or go to the nearest emergency room.
If you have questions about taking Aricept, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. Questions you may want to ask include:
- What should I do if Aricept isn’t working for me?
- If I can’t afford Aricept, what options do I have?
- If I have side effects from Aricept, can my dose be decreased?
- If I shouldn’t take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with Aricept, what other options do I have for pain management?
To learn more about Aricept, see these articles:
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Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.