Aricept (Donepezil) - Oral

What Is Aricept?

Aricept (donepezil) is a prescription medication used to treat dementia as a result of Alzheimer’s disease. It belongs to a class of medications known as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors.

Aricept prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical important for memory and learning. Low levels of acetylcholine can cause dementia.

Aricept is available as an oral tablet and oral-disintegrating tablet (ODT).

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Donepezil

Brand Name(s): Aricept

Drug Availability: Prescription

Therapeutic Classification: Central acetylcholinesterase inhibitor

Available Generically: Yes

Controlled Substance: N/A

Administration Route: Oral

Active Ingredient: Donepezil

Dosage Form: Tablet, disintegrating tablet

What Is Aricept Used For?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Aricept to treat dementia due to mild, moderate, or severe Alzheimer’s disease.

Aricept does not cure Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer's will worsen over time, regardless of treatment. However, taking Aricept can help with mental function and performing daily tasks.

Aricept (Donepezil) Drug Information - Illustration by Zoe Hansen

Verywell / Zoe Hansen

How to Take Aricept

Aricept comes in oral tablets and ODT forms. It is meant to be taken by mouth, with or without food. 

If taking the regular oral tablets, be sure to swallow the tablets whole. Do not split, crush, or chew the tablets.

Aricept ODT will melt when placed on the tongue. Be sure to drink water after the tablet melts.

Storage

Store Aricept at a controlled room temperature (59 degrees to 86 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Always carry your medication with you. If you are flying, keep the original prescription-labeled bottle or box in your carry-on bag. Don’t leave this medication in your car, especially in extreme temperatures.

What Are the Side Effects of Aricept?

Like other medications, Aricept can cause mild or serious side effects.

This is not a complete list of side effects, and others may occur. A medical professional can advise you on side effects. If you experience other effects, contact your pharmacist or a medical professional. You may report side effects to the FDA at www.fda.gov/medwatch or 800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

The most common side effects of Aricept are:

  • Nausea or loss of appetite
  • Not sleeping well
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness
  • Weight loss
  • Bruising

If any of these side effects don’t go away or become more severe, talk to your healthcare provider.

Severe Side Effects

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • Severe allergic reactions: Symptoms may include trouble breathing, hives, swelling of the tongue, lips, mouth, or throat.
  • Stomach ulcers and bleeding: Symptoms may include nausea or vomiting, stomach pain that won’t go away, heartburn, blood or dark-colored vomit, or bowel movements that look like black tar.
  • Slow heart rate or fainting
  • Seizures
  • Trouble urinating
  • Worsening of lung problems

Report Side Effects

Aricept may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your provider may send a report to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much Aricept Should I Take?

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.

  • For oral dosage forms (oral disintegrating tablets, oral solution, and tablets):
    • For mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease:
      • Adults—5 milligrams (mg) taken at bedtime. Your doctor may increase your dose as needed. However, the dose usually is not more than 10 mg per day.
      • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
    • For moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease:
      • Adults—10 milligrams (mg) taken at bedtime. Your doctor may increase your dose as needed. However, the dose usually is not more than 23 mg per day.
      • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.

Modifications

In certain individuals, the body may handle Aricept differently. A person should inform their healthcare provider if they have:

  • Liver problems
  • Heart problems
  • Stomach ulcers or bleeding
  • Seizures (uncontrolled electrical disturbances in the brain)
  • Bladder problems
  • Lung problems

Additionally, adults aged 65 years or older often process drugs more slowly. A lower dose or different schedule may be required.

Missed Dose

If you miss a dose of Aricept, you should skip the dose you missed. Do not take extra to make up for the missed dose. Doing so can increase your risk for side effects.

Overdose: What Happens If I Take Too Much Aricept?

If you take too much Aricept, you may begin to experience:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Slow heart rate
  • Drooling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sweating
  • Low blood pressure
  • Seizures

What Happens If I Overdose on Aricept?

If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on Aricept, call a healthcare provider or the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222).

If someone collapses or isn't breathing after taking Aricept, call 911 immediately.

Precautions

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

It is important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits. This is necessary to allow dose adjustments and to reduce any unwanted effects.

Before you have any kind of surgery, dental treatment, or emergency treatment, tell the medical doctor or dentist in charge that you are using this medicine. Taking donepezil together with certain medicines that are used during surgery or dental or emergency treatments may increase the effects of those medicines and cause unwanted effects.

This medicine may cause some people to become dizzy or drowsy, to have blurred vision, or to have problems with clumsiness or unsteadiness. Make sure you know how you react to this medicine before you drive, use machines, or do anything else that could be dangerous if you are not alert, well-coordinated, and able to see clearly.

Some people who have used this medicine developed problems such as nausea, severe vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and weight loss. Talk with your doctor before using this medicine if you have any concerns.

Tell you doctor right away if you have bloody or black tarry stools, constipation, severe stomach pain, or vomiting of blood or material that looks like coffee grounds. These may be symptoms of stomach or bowel bleeding.

If you think that you or someone else may have taken an overdose of this medicine, get emergency help at once. Taking an overdose of this medicine may cause convulsions (seizures) or serious effects on your heart and your breathing. Signs of overdose include increased watering of mouth, increased sweating, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, severe nausea, severe vomiting, slow heartbeat, and troubled breathing.

Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.

What Are Reasons I Shouldn’t Take Aricept?

There are a few reasons why your healthcare provider may not choose Aricept as part of your treatment plan.

Allergy

People should not take Aricept if they are allergic to the ingredients, including donepezil.

Pregnancy

Aricept should only be used during pregnancy if the benefits outweigh the risks. It is best to talk to your provider if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, so they can decide the best option for you.

Breastfeeding

It is unknown if donepezil hydrochloride passes into human milk. Talk with your provider if you are breastfeeding as you may need to decide if you should stop taking donepezil or stop breastfeeding.

Children

Donepezil has not been established as safe or effective for children 18 years old and younger.

What Other Medications May Interact With Aricept?

Some medications may interact with Aricept if you take them at the same time.

Interactions That Can Increase Your Risk of Side Effects

These medications, when taken with Aricept, may cause an increased chance of side effects:

  • Anesthesia medications, such as Anectine (succinylcholine)
  • Antifungal medications, such as Nizoral (ketoconazole)
  • Heart medications, such as Cardioquin or Cin-Quin (quinidine)
  • Urinary retention medications, such as Urecholine (bethanechol)

Interactions That Can Make Aricept Less Effective

When taken together, these medications may make Aricept less effective:

  • Antihistamines, such as Benedryl (diphenhydramine) or Atarax (hydroxyzine)
  • Anti-seizure medications, such as Dilantin (phenytoin) or Tegretol and Epitol (carbamazepine)
  • Antidepressant medications, such as Pamelor (nortriptyline) or Sinequan (doxepin)
  • Overactive bladder medications, such as Ditropan (oxybutynin) or Detrol (tolterodine)
  • Steroids, such as Ozurdex (dexamethasone) 
  • Stomach medications, such as Bentyl (dicyclomine) or Imodium (loperamide) 
  • Tuberculosis medications, such as IsonaRif and Rifamate (rifampin)

This does not include all drugs that can interact with Aricept. Before taking Aricept, be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all of the prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, supplements, or herbs you are taking. This will help you avoid potential interactions. If you have any questions about drug interactions, speak with your healthcare provider.

What Medications Are Similar?

Aricept is a medication known as an anticholinesterase inhibitor and is used to treat dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. A few other commonly prescribed medications to help improve memory function include:

  • Exelon (rivastigmine)
  • Razadyne (galantamine)
  • Namenda (memantine)

Exelon 

Exelon (rivastigmine) is part of the same class of medications as Aricept. It is available as an oral capsule and transdermal patch. Exelon is often prescribed to treat cognitive symptoms from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, as well as mild to moderate dementia from Parkinson’s disease. The most common side effects are nausea, vomiting, and weight loss.

Razadyne

Razadyne (galantamine) is part of the same class of medications as Aricept. It is available as an oral capsule, tablet, and solution. Razadyne is often prescribed to treat cognitive symptoms from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Common side effects include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, or loss of appetite.

Namenda

Namenda (memantine) is part of a different class of medications known as glutamate regulators. It works by regulating glutamate, a chemical that helps the brain process information. Namenda is available as an oral tablet, extended-release capsule, and solution. It is often prescribed to treat cognitive symptoms from moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. Common side effects include dizziness, confusion, constipation, or headache.

This is a list of medications used to treat dementia symptoms. It is not a list of drugs recommended to take with Aricept. Ask your healthcare provider if you have any questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does Aricept work?

    Aricept belongs to a class of medications known as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. It works by stopping the breakdown of acetylcholine, a substance that is found at low levels in someone with dementia. It is often used to treat dementia.

  • What are the side effects of Aricept?

    The most common side effects are not sleeping well, nausea, diarrhea, muscle cramps, or loss of appetite. Aricept also has the potential for serious side effects such as an allergic reaction, stomach ulcers, slow heart rate, or seizures. If you are experiencing any serious side effects call your healthcare provider right away. Call 911 if you are experiencing a medical emergency or life-threatening symptoms.

  • How do I stop taking Aricept?

    Stopping Aricept abruptly may lead to your symptoms not improving. If you have missed a few days of taking this medication, your provider can help you with how to best restart. It is best to speak with your provider first if you want to stop taking Aricept.

How Can I Stay Healthy While Taking Aricept?

Aricept is a safe and effective medication when used correctly. This drug is often used to treat dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

While Aricept does have the potential for serious side effects such as allergic reactions or seizures, the most common side effects may be milder. Those tend to include tiredness, diarrhea, nausea, or muscle cramps.

It is important to inform your healthcare provider of all of your other health conditions as well as any prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, supplements, or herbs you are taking. This way your provider can make the best decision about what medication and what dose will work best for you.

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended as a replacement for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare professional. Consult your doctor before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. DailyMed. Aricept - donepezil hydrochloride.

  2. Food and Drug Administration. Aricept label.

  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine. DailyMed. Exelon capsule.

  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine. DailyMed. Exelon patch.

  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine. DailyMed. Razadyne capsule and tablet.

  6. U.S. National Library of Medicine. DailyMed. Namenda XR capsule.

  7. U.S. National Library of Medicine. DailyMed. Namenda tablet.

By Kaylea Swearingen, PharmD
Kaylea Swearingen is a registered pharmacist and health and wellness writer.