A short intro to Memantine
Memantine is a prescription drug that is also known by the brand name Namenda. It was first developed in the 1960s for the treatment of diabetes. In 2003, the FDA approved Memantine for the treatment of both severe and moderate Alzheimer’s disease. However, the drug does not cure Alzheimer’s. What it does is it slows down the progress or damage that the disease is having on the cognitive functions of the patient.
Memantine is also different from other prescription drugs used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s. The other drugs work by combating the breakdown of a neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine. Memantine blocks NMDA receptors, and that’s why it is classified as an NMDA receptor antagonist. It is believed that high glutamate is the reason behind some of the effects of Alzheimer’s. Memantine blocks the receptors that this chemical binds to. As a result, the effects of glutamate are reduced.
Memantine also works by blocking nicotinic receptors and 5-HT3 receptors (serotonin subtype 3). It also plays a role in the activation of dopamine D2 receptors.
Memantine is commonly available as an oral tablet. You can also find it in an extended-release capsule or oral solution.
Due to the drug’s ability to slow down cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients, there have been reports that it can also be used as a nootropic and in treating other conditions. There is actually a large number of people that are using Memantine as a cognitive enhancer even though the FDA has not cleared its use in this field.
Uses and Benefits of Memantine
- Slows The Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
Treatment of moderate-to-severe Alzheimer’s disease is the one application of Memantine that is actually approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This means that there is enough evidence to support the drug’s efficacy in treating the condition. Numerous studies, including human trials, have supported the same. However, researchers have pointed out that the drug is not very effective for mild Alzheimer’s
The combination of Memantine and donepezil has also proven to be helpful for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Trials show that the combination can improve psychological and behavioral symptoms as well as cognitive functions.
- Treating Dementia
This is one of the most common uses of Memantine outside its official use. Physicians are known to recommend Memantine for certain forms of dementia and especially vascular dementia. Various human trials actually support the benefits of the drug for this purpose.
Memantine also helps with severe dementia as well as dementia of WKS (Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome), but the results have not been as impressive as they are with vascular dementia.
- Treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
If you are struggling with anxiety, Memantine may be very helpful for you. A few studies have shown the drug to be effective in decreasing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorders such as anxiety and worry.
Sadly, there are very few trials supporting this. Also, the studies showed that the symptoms were only reduced slightly.
- Treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms
Methylphenidate is a commonly used drug for the treatment of ADHD. In one trial, scientists used Methylphenidate and Memantine on patients with the condition for a period of 6 weeks. At the end of the study, they observed that both drugs had fairly the same effect on decreasing the symptoms of ADHD. They also reported that there were no significant differences in the risks or side effects posed.
People with ADHD can, therefore, benefit hugely from Memantine.
- Treating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Symptoms
Memantine can help with decreasing the symptoms of OCD but not on its own. Studies show that when it’s used alongside other conventional medications of OCD, the drugs can have a much better impact. Some trials even reported a 100% response!
- Treating Bipolar Disorder
There is evidence showing that Memantine can treat some of the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. For instance, one study reported that Memantine helped in reducing manic symptoms. Even more interesting, it showed that the drug could improve the response of patients who are resistant to the conventional medications of bipolar disorder.
On top of all that, Memantine improves the quality and duration of sleep and mood. Combine this with the reduction in anxiety, and the patients can expect a significant improvement in their overall quality of life.
Some of the other potential uses of Memantine include the treatment of schizophrenia, Nystagmus, migraines and headaches, and substance use disorder.
It’s important to remember that all these “off-label” uses of Memantine are not approved by the FDA. Therefore, even though some trials are supporting the claimed benefits, the user must remain careful when using the drug. First, do not take the drug without a physician’s approval, particularly if you have a complicated medical history. Second, do not take more than is recommended.
Is Memantine Safe?
The FDA has approved the use of Memantine, which means that it is not only beneficial but also safe for human use. But, that doesn’t give you the free pass to use the drug anyhow. Misusing Memantine, just like with any other drug, can result in a wide variety of adverse reactions.
Also, using Memantine for other purposes other than what it is cleared for, increases the risk for side effects.
People who are already taking other drugs should not use Memantine without consulting a medical provider. Pregnant and nursing women should do the same.
With that in mind, some of the common side effects reported by Memantine users are nausea, headaches, drowsiness, and constipation. On top of that, user’s may also experience the following rare side effects:
- Back pain
- Joint pain
Several factors will determine the amount of Memantine one should take. Age and the condition you are treating are key determinants. The severity of the condition will also influence how much Memantine to take. Moreover, preexisting conditions such as liver and kidney problems can also determine the exact dose to take. That’s more reason why you want to discuss your medical history with your doctor before taking the drug.
Memantine is available in various forms and doses. The immediate-release tablets come in 10mg and 5mg. The extended-release is available in 28mg, 21mg, 14mg, and 7mg. Finally, you can get a 360ml solution (2mg/ml).
For Alzheimer’s disease, doctors can prescribe a starting dose of around 5mg per day. However, depending on the severity and a few other factors, the dose can be increased to as much as 20mg per day. Make sure you speak to your doctor about doses before using Memantine for this purpose.
For the other off-label uses, the doses also range from 5mg to 20 mg per day. The dosage is taken in two servings over the course of the day. Anyone with no prior history of using Memantine should start with the lowest dosage of 5mg per day. This helps in minimizing the risk of adverse reactions. Once the body starts getting acclimated to the new compound, the dosage can be increased gradually in 5mg increments.
20mg per day is the maximum recommended dose. Anything beyond that is too risky.
Memantine is a very helpful drug with lots of potentials. Even though the FDA has only approved it for the treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease, the available trials prove that it can be very helpful for other conditions too. However, it’s in your best interest to seek a physician’s advice before using this drug, as it can also cause adverse reactions.
Also, when you start experimentation in search of your best dosage, ensure that you monitor your body’s response closely. Increase the dose only if you are reacting well to the drug. In case of any adverse reactions, reduce the dose immediately, and get in touch with a medical provider if the problem persists.