Drugs that cause Nausea or Vomiting


There are certain drugs that trigger a vomiting tendency. Studies suggest that drugs inducing nausea or vomiting potentially work on two regions in the nervous system: the chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ) and the vomiting center (VC).

1. Drugs acting on chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ)

  • Apomorphine
  • Emetine (when given parenterally and only at large doses)
  • L-DOPA
  • Estrogens (morning sickness of pregnancy)
  • Ergot alkaloids
  • Cardiac glycosides
  • Opiates
  • Cancer chemotherapeutic agents
  • Cardiac glycosides
NOTE: The therapeutic dose of morphine can either induce or block emesis, as it can bind with both emetic and antiemetic opioid receptors. However, both actions can be blocked by naloxone, an opioid antagonist drug used to counter the effects of opiate overdose. Emetic effect is mediated by delta or kappa receptors, whereas antiemetic effect by mu receptors.

2. Drugs acting locally on the G-I tract

They activate specific cells, enterochromaffin cells, in the mucosa of the digestive tract or gastro intestinal tract (GIT or GI tract), causing the cells to secrete a hormone, serotonin, which acts on the receptors at the nerve endings of the vagal sensory fibers. The afferent fibers transmit excitation to the N. tractus solitarius, which in turn activates the vomiting center in the brain. These drugs are traditionally called "local irritants".
  • Ipecac (the most useful household emetic is syrup of ipecac; emetine is one of its active ingredients)
  • Zinc salts
  • Copper sulfate
  • Antimony salts ("tartar emetic" is antimony potassium tartrate)
Facts to know:

Nausea or vomiting is a common side effect of many drugs. In fact, overdose of any drug can cause a vomiting tendency. However, this does not mean you can simply take any medication in higher doses to induce nausea or vomiting.

You need to know that every pharmaceutical preparation, whether it is a pain medication, flu vaccine or a dietary supplement, has a maximum and minimum therapeutic dose. Researchers working in the manufacturing company and regulatory agency evaluate the optimum effective dose of a drug based on both in vivo and in vitro test results. They also assess the lethal dose via rat or animal model studies, though that result is not shared publicly because of patient's safety.

In brief, I want to say that every drug is a poison, no matter it's a herbal or pharmaceutical preparation. If you take your medication rightly as prescribed by your physician, it will help treat the ailment you're suffering. But if you experiment by taking an overdose of the given preparation, then all I can say you're risking yourself to some extremely detrimental side effects.

Check out: Is herbal remedies really safe?
Image source: Jade Jackson, CC-BY-2.0, via Flickr

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