The Motion Sickness Patch

The Transderm-Scop, commonly known as the motion sickness patch or simply 'the patch', is one of the most popular motion sickness medications and probably the most commonly prescribed medication for those worried about sea sickness while on a cruise.

There's no doubt that the patch is highly effective for many people. Some report that it is the only thing that has ever helped relieve their motion sickness. However, this is a serious medication and it is important to be aware of the possible side effects as they can be quite scary if you are badly affected. By all means try the patch, but do so on the basis of an informed decision and under the care of a doctor.

What is the Motion Sickness patch?

The Transderm-Scop (active ingredient: Scopolamine) is a medicated patch that looks like a band-aid and is the size of a small coin. It slowly releases medication (over a 72 hour period), which is absorbed into the body through the skin. The patch is quite discreet and is normally applied to the hairless skin behind the ear, although I've seen people wearing them on the side of the neck and even on the face. I've heard of fashion conscious women wearing them hidden away on their hip, however I am unsure whether this is medically recommended.

The Transderm-Scop Motion Sickness PatchTransderm-Scop Motion Sickness Patch

The patch's big plus point is that for most people it works better than Bonine and Dramamine, while not making them as drowsy. Likely side effects of the patch are dry mouth and mild dizziness, but many are understandably willing to put up with this. Much more serious is the possibility of disorientation and hallucinations that a minority of people will suffer. Additionally, I've spoken to several people who have found that the severity of the side effects increases the more they use the patch.

How is the patch used?

The motion sickness patch must be applied several hours before you expect to be exposed to motion, in order to give the medication time to be absorbed into your body. It is strongly advisable, however, to apply the patch 24 hours in advance, in order to discover how you react to it. Should you suffer side effects, then you can decide how to deal with them while you are still on firm ground.

The patch can be extremely effective when used properly. It sounds obvious, but if your patch isn't working for you, do check that you have applied it properly and, in particular, that you have removed the protective peel-off backing! Take special care when applying and removing the patches, washing your hands thoroughly to remove any medication residue. It is especially important not to touch your eyes with residue on your fingers, as this will cause your pupils to dilate giving your very blurred vision. When you remove the patch, be sure to clean the area where it was applied with soap and water, otherwise any residue left on the skin will continue to be absorbed.

The motion sickness patch comes in a single 'one size fits all' dose and I've met several people - usually petite women - who find using the whole patch too overwhelming, and therefore cut it in half, and use half at a time. I've also heard of people covering a section of the patch with a strip of band-aid or tape. I can't advise on whether this is a good or bad thing to do, but as medications should generally be used as directed I strongly suggest you consult your doctor before trying this.

If the patch delivers too big a dose, then consider taking Scopace pills instead. Scopace contains the same active ingredient as the motion sickness patch (Scopolamine), but in smaller, more flexible doses.

Update: It appears Scopace (Transderm Scop in pill form) has been discontinued and is no longer available - try other medications with the same active ingredient (Hyoscine Hydrobromide) instead.

What are the patch's possible side effects?

The motion sickness patch is associated with a number of side effects, the most common of which is blurred vision (the manufacturer of Transderm-Scop estimates that some 60% of those using the patch will experience this). Another common side effect is dry mouth and, for some, an unpleasant taste in the mouth. For most people the patch is non-drowsy (as noted above, this is a major reason that it is so popular), however the pay-off is that some people experience restlessness and even insomnia. More severe side effects (experienced by an estimated 10-15% of those using the patch) include confusion and disorientation. I've heard of cases where the patch has made people so dizzy and disorientated that they can't stand. In extreme cases the patch has been associated with hallucinations and psychosis. There is also the possibility of allergic reactions. Obviously it is important in these cases to remove the patch (remembering to thoroughly clean the underlying area) and seek urgent medical attention.

There seems to be evidence that elderly people are more likely to suffer severe side effects from using the motion sickness patch. The patch is not approved for use by children. Avoid alcohol while using the patch as it is likely to amplify any side effects.

What are the possible withdrawal symptoms from the Transderm-Scop patch?

Those who use multiple motion sickness patches (i.e. for a duration of more than 72 hours) have an increased chance of suffering withdrawal symptoms around 24 - 48 hours after removing the final patch. This can include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, anxiety and palpitations, and headaches. Both side effects and withdrawal symptoms appear to get worse for each subsequent period that the patch is used. Those who suffer withdrawal symptoms generally comment that the relief from motion sickness wasn't worth paying the price of the withdrawal symptoms.


Dennis N. on August 27th 2012:
Hello :) I was taking the Transderm Scop in pill form but now I hear that they stop making it in pill form. It was working great for me, but now I'm trying the patch and it doesn't work as good for me.

I like to know where can I find the pill so I don't get sick every weekend.
Please help.

Lucy @ replies:

Thanks for getting in touch, I hadn't heard about the Transderm Scop being withdrawn in pill form. Is this in the US? I'll try to find out more.

Meanwhile, the best thing, as always, is to consult your medical professional. Were your Transderm Scop pills prescribed by your doctor? He or she should be able to tell you exactly what the situation is.

Sorry not to be of more help.

Lucy @ replies:

I've done some research, and unfortunately Scopace (the Transderm Scop in pill form) does indeed appear to have been discontinued. There are suggestions that Scopace simply wasn't profitable enough for the manufacturers :-(

Regarding other sea sickness medications, it may be worth asking your doctor about alternatives using the same active ingredient (Hyoscine Hydrobromide). Brand names include Joy-Rides, Kwells and Travel Calm.

Further than that I'm sorry but I simply can't advise. This is for two reasons - firstly I'm not a qualified medical practitioner, and secondly what works for one person may or may not work for another.

I would, however, urge you to try the various natural and herbal remedies first and then - if nothing helps - graduate onto trying each of the motion sickness medications in turn under the supervision of your doctor.

Good luck with finding what works for you.
MaryB on November 9, 2012:
I think I got some of the medication in my eye, how long will it take for the effects on my pupil to wear off? I woke up this morning with 2 different size pupils and blurry vision from a patch that I used yesterday around noon. Thanks

Lucy @ replies:

MaryB, I haven't experienced this issue myself, but from what I've heard the blurry vision passes in a couple of days, and has no long-term effects. Having said that, if you are worried or the vision issues don't resolve themselves in 48 hours or so then I would strongly urge you to get a qualified medical opinion.
MaryB on November 12, 2012:
Thank you for your reply. The effects lasted about 2 days, and I no longer have any issues. Thank you again... Mary
Ed on March 11, 2013:
Thanks for the helpful information. I had the patch on for 3 days, then put a new one on. Within a couple hours the extra dose blurred my vision to the point I could not read at all. I usually have 20/20 vision, so it was startling. It's been over 48 hours now with no improvement. Tomorrow I'll see my Dr. if still the same. Not at all worth the side-effects which are quite scary.
Lori on April 15, 2013:
I had severe withdrawl symptoms that took me to emergency care. Tremmors, dizziness, headache, all severe. It has been 4 days and I am still not feeling well. The patch worked great for the cruise but the after-effects are not worth it!!!
New York Gal on June 2, 2013:
I am an older person. The patch did its job, but sometimes I had trouble sleeping and my scalp got itchy. Worst of all was that, after using it for 17 days I had a horrible psychological withdrawal symptom. For almost 5 days I was severely depressed/anxious. It passed but never again! It was scary, though I knew it would probably pass and it did.
Mainegirl on November 4, 2013:
I recently used the Transderm-Scop on an 8 day cruise. It helped with the motion sickness, but the side effects were frightening: Parkinson-like tremors, blurry vision, moderate confusion manifested by short-term memory alterations. And then 2 days after disembarking and removing the 3rd and final patch, I developed disabling nausea which has plagued me for a week now and has made it impossible for me to stand and move about. I will NEVER again use this medication and urge others not to do so either.
Melanie on January 25, 2014:
I was prescribed the patch shortly before my husband and I were set to leave for our first cruise. I applied the first patch the morning we were set to leave port and experienced no issues that day. The following I began experiencing motion sickness issues that continued to plague me for the duration of the cruise (8 days). I used a total of 3 patches during my trip. About a day after removing the last patch, I woke up feeling really weak, dizzy and nauseous. My vision would blur when I tried to focus and read anything. I had to call in sick to work, thinking it was residual seasickness. I figured a day of rest and I would be good to go. Not the case at all. I am now on the 5th day and still experiencing dizziness, headaches, blurred vision and shortness of breath when walking across the house. I have no choice but to go to work Monday as I can't afford to miss any more work, but I am dreading it. I called the doctor and learned that what I was suffering was withdrawal from the patch. They said there was nothing to do but wait it out. Supposedly the medication should have been out of my system 8 hours after the patch was removed. The withdrawal symptoms, however, are horrible. I understand that many are able to use the patch with no problems, but this medication is poison to my system and I will never again use this product. It makes me wonder now if it was even responsible for my sickness during the trip.
Kerry on April 6, 2014:
I have used the patch twice for two cruises in recent years and it was very effective (I tend to get very motion sick) during the cruise, but the withdrawal symptoms are terrible.
If you google this issue, many people suffer serious withdrawal side effects. We just booked another cruise for next year and I am researching alternatives (this is a helpful website!) because I do not want to go through that again. Please post this so that people who are looking at the patch know what they are potentially getting into. My own doctor had not heard of this withdrawal effect and the maker of the medicine does not do enough to warn against it. It can debilitate you for a week or more - not worth it.
Trisha on May 31, 2014:
After my first cruise I had severe withdrawal symptoms. Nausea, dizziness, fatigue for 10 days. Just returned from my second cruise and left the patch on for four days after we returned per my doctor's advice. Felt so-so all week then I crashed at work. Sweaty, light headed and nausea overwhelmed me. Never again will I use this patch! Day 2 with the above symptoms. User beware!!!!!
Gayle on June 19, 2014:
Thank you all for your input, into what you have experienced with these patches. My Dr suggested this to me, however he has not told me about any side effects. What I have learned today though your posts has made up my mind and I will not be getting any patches. Has anyone had any good experiences with other medication, I take stemitel but that makes me very sleepy.
Kate on August 1, 2014:
Have used the patch twice with excellent results after repeated efforts with every other remedy were ineffective. If you can't rely on Dramamine, Bonine, Sea Bands or other homeopathic remedies to quell your motion sickness, then the patch is truly worth a try. Typically people with bad experiences tend to post more often, but they are the rare exception in terms of overall experience of this product.
Candi on October 2, 2014:
I have used the patches on several cruises, works great during the cruise. But each time after removing the patch at the end of the cruise on the 2nd or 3rd day I become very ill. Worst motion sickness ever. This was the last time using the patch, as being this ill for a week or more is not worth it! I'll take my chances without it.
Julie L. on November 15, 2014:
I had the patch placed yesterday before a digital procedure because I tend vomit post op from GA.
I immediately got dizzy but figured it was because of nothing to eat for so long. Later that afternoon I got disoriented, dizzy, double vision, inability to see things close up, flushed hot red face, trouble speaking and thinking. I looked it up and realized this was most likely the patch. I removed it and it has been off about 13 hours and I am still having all the side effects. Does anyone know how to get this medicine quickly out of your system. Miserable enough from the surgery, sure wasn't expecting to get sick from something the anaesthesiologists said would help me. They never told me about any side effect of the patch only that it would keep me from being nauseous. Anyone have any tips for this? Would be greatly appreciated.
donna on November 20, 2014:
Had a virus that settled in the balancing nerves in my ear causing terrible vertigo. The patch was great at first but I had to use it for an extended amount of time. During this time I had terrible tremors, speech disorganization, odd gait, headache, vision disturbances and fatigue. After removing the patch the dizziness is back. Luckily a friend offered a medication called vertigoheel. It has helped with the dizziness. I just hope the symptoms don't get worse.
Martha on January 7, 2015:
I used the patch on a cruise and had side effects which included being very sleepy, feeling sort of like I could barely move my arms, urinating frequently and with pain, and loss of coordination. I was afraid to take it off, because I did not want to be sea sick. Now that I am home, I have had extremely painful cramps, vomiting, shaking, and tingling with paralysis in my arms and hands. The withdrawal symptoms began about 24 hours after removing the patch and I am feeling much better now after 48 hours of withdrawal symptoms.
Rita on February 20, 2015:
I am so sorry to hear of all the troubles people have had with the patch. I have used it on many cruises (3 and 7 day) and never had any severe reactions. Maybe a little dry mouth but that's it. The benefits far out weigh any negative side effects for me - and I get motion sickness from making a u-turn in a car! Planning on using it again this summer on a 7 day cruise!
Mike on March 5, 2015:
Sorry to hear of some of the folks here having issues when using the patch. One of the first Cruises I went on I had to use the patch. The 3rd day into the cruise we hit a storm so bad that more than half the cruise performers, as well as some of the crew, got sick. I started getting nauseous and had to lay down just after lunch. I ended up applying the patch about 1 hour before dinner. My wife checked up on me, during the dinner service, and said that our waiter suggested eating some apple slices. She asked if the patch was helping and I said actually I was feeling better even before eating the apple slices. I ended up getting up and dressed and going to the end of the dinner service and even ate desert. The rest of the evening I felt great and the patch actually did its job. The rough seas lasted a couple days and I did not experience any more motion sickness the rest of the trip. I am sold on the patch. Will not go on a cruise without it and even used it on a 2nd cruise with no issue or side effects at all. This worked great for me and I will definitely use the patch the next time I go deep sea fishing, as every time I attempt to do this I end up very nauseous and unable to fish the entire time. I've tried Bonine, Dramamine and nothing worked for me when going deep sea fishing. I'll definitely try this since it worked so well for the rough seas during my cruises.
Adam on March 10, 2015:

I used this working offshore for a period of about 10-12 days replacing the patch as was described by the instructions. The patch did prevent my motion sickness. During the use, my pupils became extremely dilated and I was unable to focus my vision or read. Furthermore mental concentration became more difficult.

Upon returning onshore and removing the patch the withdrawal symptoms started. This included extreme dizziness, vomiting, nausea, head-aches, sweating, speech disorganization. These effects lasted upwards of 2 months making it extremely difficult to work. This patch should not be used in any circumstance. This is coming from a healthy 25 year old male, so I could only imagine the effects on others.
Keturah on March 31, 2015:
Was giving the patch prior to surgery. 3-27-2015. From day One, I had blurry vision. Removed patch yesterday, 3-30-2015, still have blurred vision and now experiencing dry mouth. Can not drive my car or ride in a vehicle due to getting extremely dizzy. Will try Dramamine to see if it helps with these issues. I have read that it helps with most of the post-patch problems.

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