Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder of the nervous system. It causes unintended and uncontrollable movements. There are many different types of medications that a person may take to manage Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease can cause a person to experience difficulty walking and talking. It can also cause a person to develop mental and behavioral changes.

This article discusses the different types of medications a doctor may prescribe to help relieve Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

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One of the main causes of Parkinson’s disease is the death or impairment of nerve cells in the basal ganglia, which is an area of the brain that controls movement.

These nerve cells produce a brain chemical called dopamine. When the brain produces less dopamine than usual, it causes the movement problems associated with the disease.

Below are some medications that aim to increase the amount of dopamine in a person’s brain to help relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.


Levodopa is a medication that crosses the blood-brain barrier and converts to dopamine in the brain.

Certain enzymes in the blood break levodopa down before it can reach the brain. This means that people often take levodopa with an enzyme inhibitor called carbidopa. This helps prevent the enzymes from metabolizing the drug, allowing more of it to reach the brain.

Levodopa may help reduce the following symptoms of Parkinson’s disease:

Side effects

Levodopa treatment may cause the following side effects:

Carbidopa may help reduce nausea. Therefore, if a person experiences nausea when taking levodopa, a medical professional may recommend taking medication that combines levodopa and carbidopa.

Older people may be more sensitive to the central nervous system side effects of levodopa. These may include:

Dopamine agonists

Dopamine agonists are a series of medications that mimic the role of dopamine in the brain. They cause nerve cells to react as they would to dopamine, which increases dopamine activity in the brain.

Examples of these medications include:

People may take dopamine agonists alone or alongside levodopa. A doctor may prescribe them during the early stages of Parkinson’s disease or to help increase the duration and efficacy of levodopa.

Side effects

Dopamine agonists tend to cause more side effects than levodopa. Common side effects include:

In some individuals, dopamine agonists may also cause:

  • hallucinations
  • confusion
  • psychosis


Monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B) is an enzyme that metabolizes dopamine in the brain.

Selegiline is an MAO-B inhibitor. This means that it blocks or reduces the activity of MAO-B in the brain. This helps prevent it from breaking dopamine down, increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain.

Side effects

Common side effects of selegiline include:

Selegiline may also cause a severe increase in blood pressure if a person consumes it with tyramine-rich foods, beverages, or supplements.

It can also cause other dangerous adverse effects, including:

Below are some examples of medications that a person may take to help manage tremors and involuntary movements.


Anticholinergics are a class of drugs that can decrease the activity of acetylcholine, which is a type of neurotransmitter. This reduction in acetylcholine activity helps inhibit nerve impulses that may be responsible for involuntary muscle movements and tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Examples of anticholinergic medications include:

  • trihexyphenidyl
  • benztropine
  • ethopropazine

Side effects

Side effects of these medications may include:


Amantadine is a medication a person can take to help decrease tremors and involuntary movements. It may also help decrease rigidity and slow movements in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Doctors may prescribe the medication alone or in combination with levodopa or an anticholinergic drug.

Side effects

Common side effects of amantadine include:

People with Parkinson’s disease commonly experience some mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

Below are some medications people may take to help treat any mental health conditions associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a common first-line treatment for depression. People may also take SSRIs to treat anxiety.

This medication works by increasing the levels of serotonin in a person’s brain to help reduce their symptoms of depression.

Research suggests that SSRI treatment is effective at improving depression symptoms and may also help improve daily living activities and motor function in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Side effects

SSRIs may cause side effects, such as:

  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • gastrointestinal upset
  • sexual dysfunction
  • dry mouth
  • anxiety
  • weight changes
  • sleep disturbances

SSRIs also pose a risk of causing serotonin syndrome.

Other medications for treating Parkinson’s disease-related depression

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, there are a number of non-SSRI medications a person may use to treat depression.

These medications include:

Their side effects and interactions with other medications may slightly differ, so a person should speak with a healthcare professional to work out which one may work best for them.

If a person has Parkinson’s disease and experiences side effects from certain medications, they should speak with a doctor right away. A healthcare professional may be able to help suggest alternative treatments that do not cause the same side effects.

A doctor can work with a person to help develop a tailored treatment plan.

When a person begins taking medications for Parkinson’s disease they should:

  • report to a doctor how effective the drugs have been
  • keep a diary listing any side effects
  • record any dosage adjustments a doctor makes

Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder of the nervous system that causes unintended and uncontrollable movements.

There are many different medications that a person may take to treat some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. These include medications that increase the amount of dopamine in a person’s brain, medications that help reduce tremors, and medications to manage depression and other mental health conditions.

A person should speak with a healthcare professional who can help work out which medications may work best on an individual basis.