Research Article| Volume 30, ISSUE 2, P157-169, July 15, 1991

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The effects of scopolamine on sleep and mood in depressed patients with a history of alcoholism and a normal comparison group

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      In order to determine the effect of an anticholinergic agent on mood and sleep, scopolamine (0.4 mg IM) was administered before bedtime for three consecutive nights to 10 depressed patients (8 with a history of alcohol abuse) and 10 normal comparison subjects. The patients had a small, statistically significant antidepressant response on the second morning of treatment. Scopolamine inhibited rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and prolonged REM latency equally in depressed patients and the normal comparison group. Partial tolerance to the REM inhibiting effect of scopolamine developed between the first and third night of treatment. A REM rebound occurred during recovery nights. These results are consistent with concepts relating central cholinergic mechanisms to the control of REM sleep. Compared with controls, patients showed a greater increase in Stage 2 and Stage 2% and a lesser and increase in Delta (Stage 3 and 4) sleep % and Stage 4% on the first night of treatment. Further, well-controlled studies are needed to determine whether anticholinergic drugs possess clinically significant antidepressant effects.
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