Memantine HCL: Benefits, Side Effects & Uses

Memantine Hydrochloride (HCL), also known as Namenda, is a type of medication that is used in the treatment of medium to severe symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Before we get into the specifics of Memantine HCL, let us understand what exactly is Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that arises due to a neurodegenerative action of brain cells. In simple words, due to unusual chemical activity in the brain, a significantly high number of nerve connections and brain cells get destroyed. This loss of neural paths and cells makes communication within the brain a difficult task. Different areas of the brain find it hard to transmit neural signals and access each other. Due to this, the patient can face major memory loss and memory retention issues. Even basic day-to-day tasks such as finding ingredients to make breakfast or finding the keys to the car can be forgotten. Problem-solving skills go for a toss due to the inability to remember much. In fact, the patient may also face difficulties in forming sentences due to forgetfulness.

This brain disorder cannot be completely cured, only the symptoms can be reduced to an extent to provide a slightly more comfortable lifestyle for the patient. We shall be discussing a medicine known as Namenda (Memantine HCL) that is an active NMDA receptor antagonist. Although it is less preferred to acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, it has proven to increase memory retention capacity by repairing a minor amount of neural connections in the brain. 

Benefits & Uses of Memantine HCL (Namenda)

After carefully analyzing, recording and studying the effects of Namenda, medical researchers have concluded that it does prove beneficial in improving cognitive abilities, memory retention, increasing awareness and regaining concentration powers. The technical jargon indicating the major benefit of Namenda would be known as “Neuron Synaptic Plasticity”. This phrase means that the damaged and degenerated neural paths in the brain begin to re-form, leading to an increase in communication between brain cells. This reestablishment of brain cells and neural paths makes it convenient for the brain to be more responsive to actions and emotions. 

Patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease can also face frequent insomnia which eventually leads to restlessness. Consuming memantine is known to help a patient sleep more comfortably. Most Alzheimer’s patients struggle to navigate through daily tasks like dressing up, bathing or catching a bus or train and even remembering their own family members. But after consuming memantine for a few months, the probability of these symptoms worsening reduces. This, in turn, buys the patient more time within the real world and keeps complete delusion at bay. The fact that it is used mainly for severe dementia/Alzheimer’s disease, makes it helpful for people who are already suffering from this disease for a while. 

Some research suggests that a chemical known as glutamate when exposed to the brain in large amounts can lead to a degenerative effect on brain cells. But when memantine is consumed, it functions by blocking the receptors in the brain that bind to glutamate. This regulates the negative effects of glutamate within the brain. 

Dosage of Memantine HCL 

Namenda tablets need to be consumed orally and are available in 5 mg and 10 mg doses. Patients who are 18 years of age or older should start consuming 5 mg tablets once a day. Depending on the effectiveness of the medication, the dosage amount may increase to two 5 mg doses taken at 12-hour intervals during a day. Keep in mind that children below the age of 18 must not be given Memantine without a doctor’s advice. Also, consuming more than 20 mg of Memantine HCL in a single day can lead to fatal side effects that can affect either the heart, kidneys, brains or the digestive system in a negative manner.

Side effects of Memantine HCL 

The range of side effects associated with the consumption of memantine can range from common to less common. Although the chances of facing most of these side effects are rare, each patient must be aware of the consequences. Some side effects may not arise unless this medicine is consumed with another medicine or unless the patient is a victim of some underlying health condition.

Keep reading the know more about the possible side effects: 

  • Common side effects – 90 percent of patients who have been prescribed with Namenda have complained of headaches, dizziness, constipation and frequently occurring diarrhea. Most of them have also indicated that they experience body pain, especially in their back and abdomen. Due to these factors, there can be a loss of overall appetite leading to an abnormal loss in weight. On the positive note, if a patient experiences any of these side effects, it would be tolerable in most cases. 
  • Less common side effects – Occasional bloating of the arms and legs can occur due to some allergy to some part of the composition of the medicine. If the patient is a victim of some kind of cardiovascular disorder then episodes leading to abnormal heartbeats can appear. This uncomfortable sensation is known to give rise to shortness of breath accompanied by a feeling of nervousness and anxiety to the patient. 

Some patients have also complained of experiencing imbalance when they walk or stand. This can be a temporary effect that arises due to dizziness. The worst (although rare) side effect of consuming Memantine HCL is the aftermath of psychiatric effects. The patient can experience extreme restlessness at night, leading to being diagnosed with chronic insomnia. But, if the body and brain adapt to the chemicals secreted by this medicine soon enough, then the frequency of disturbed nights can reduce and the patient can sleep comfortably.

Another possible issue is an impact on the digestive system of the patient. We are already informed that diarrhea and constipation are common side effects of memantine HCL. But this can worsen if the gastrointestinal system gets further infected. If you experience gastroenteritis symptoms such as vomiting and severe abdominal pain then you must immediately visit the doctor.

One option to treat mild symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease is the prescription of cholinesterase inhibitors such as Aricept (Donepezil), Razadyne (Galantamine) and Rivastigmine (Exelon). But when a patient is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease then Memantine HCL (Namenda), approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is the ideal choice. Patients must make sure that they do not abruptly stop consuming Memantine as this can lead to mental lapses and a surge in random emotional outbreaks like anger, agitation, depression or frustration. It is universally known that Alzheimer’s patients have to be in constant touch with their doctor regarding their mental condition.