The most commonly used emetics are ipecac and apo-morphine. Induced emesis is the preferred means of emptying the stomach in awake patients who have ingested a toxic substance or have recently taken a drug overdose. Emesis should not be induced if the patient has central nervous system depression or has ingested certain volatile hydrocarbons and caustic substances.
Ipecac syrup is prepared from the dried rhizome and roots of Cephaelis ipecacuanha or Cephaelis acuminata, plants from Brazil and Central America that have the alkaloid emetine as their active principal ingredient. It acts directly on the CTZ and also indirectly by irritating the gastric mucosa. Ipecac is cardiotoxic if absorbed and can cause cardiac conduction disturbances, atrial fibrillation, or fatal myocarditis. If emesis does not occur, gastric lavage using a nasogastric tube must be performed.
Apomorphine, a derivative of morphine, acts directly on the CTZ. It also is more effective if water is first administered before oral or subcutaneous dosing. Excessive dosage may cause respiratory depression and circulatory collapse. Opioid antagonists such as nalox-one usually reverse the depressant actions of apomor-phine. Because of the possibility of respiratory depression, apomorphine is infrequently used as an emetic.
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