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Antinausea drugs

Many different types of drugs can be used to prevent or ease nausea and vomiting. Each type of drug works in a slightly differently way. Some are used alone, but more often a combination of drugs is used to effectively control nausea and vomiting. These drugs may be called antinausea drugs, antinauseants or anti-emetics.

Types of antinausea drugs

Drugs that may be used to prevent or control nausea and vomiting include:

  • ondansetron (Zofran)
  • granisetron (Kytril)
  • dolasetron (Anzemet)
  • dexamethasone (Decadron, Dexasone)
  • diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • dimenhydrinate (Gravol)
  • lorazepam (Ativan)
  • prochlorperazine (Stemetil)
  • haloperidol (Haldol)
  • metoclopramide (Maxeran)
  • nabilone
  • palonosetron hydrochloride with netupitant (Akynzeo)

Nabilone is a pill that has synthetic cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are chemicals that act on certain receptors on cells in our body, especially cells in the central nervous system. Nabilone is approved in Canada to treat nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. It’s sometimes given to people with cancer if standard antinausea drugs do not help relieve these symptoms. Find out more about cannabis and cannabinoids for medical purposes.

Taking antinausea drugs

Antinausea medicines often work best if you take them before you feel nauseous. They may be given before treatment to help prevent nausea and vomiting. They are often given before chemotherapy and are sometimes given before radiation therapy. You may also need to take these drugs regularly for several hours or a few days after treatment. This helps control delayed nausea and vomiting.

Antinausea drugs may be given a number of ways. Most often they are taken by mouth (orally), by rectal suppository or by a needle in a vein (intravenous injection) or a muscle (intramuscular injection). A suppository or intramuscular injection may not be recommended when white blood cell or platelet counts are low.

You should use antinausea medicines as directed by the healthcare team. Tell your doctor or healthcare team if medicines don’t relieve nausea and vomiting. They may change the dosage or add other medicines.

Side effects

Antinausea drugs can cause some side effects, including:

  • sleepiness or drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • dry mouth
  • constipation
  •  diarrhea
  • anxiety
  • mood changes

Most people feel that these side effects are worth the benefits of having their nausea and vomiting relieved.

Details on specific drugs change quite regularly. Find out more about sources of drug information and where to get details on specific drugs.

central nervous system (CNS)

The brain and spinal cord, which work together to control all the functions of the body.

The brain receives messages (electrical signals) from nerves in the spinal cord and cranial nerves. The nerves in the spinal cord carry messages between the brain and the body.