Too Much Acetylcholine: Symptoms and Causes of High Levels

We need acetylcholine activity for proper cognitive function, but can too much of a good thing cause problems?

Too Much Acetylcholine: Symptoms and Causes of High Levels

Many different supplements, drugs, and other compounds affect acetylcholine levels, leading to some fantastic benefits like better recollection, focus, and mood.

However, it is possible to produce too much acetylcholine, and some uncomfortable symptoms can occur when that happens.

Whether you believe you may have too much acetylcholine or want to know how to avoid over-saturation of the acetylcholine receptors, this article will help you determine potential causes, signs, and methods to lower your acetylcholine levels.


    What Are The Symptoms of Too Much Acetylcholine?

    Many symptoms associated with excess acetylcholine can sometimes be hard to identify, but knowing what the possibilities include can help you determine if there is too much acetylcholine in your brain.

    When there is an abundant production of acetyl coenzyme A, then over-stimulation at the acetylcholine receptors and other mechanisms can occur.

    In turn, you may experience some acute physical signs, like headaches, tension, muscle cramps, nausea, and physical fatigue. Too much acetylcholine may also harm the immune system and alter the body’s response to allergen substances.

    These signs will most likely be coupled with mental health issues as well. Depression is one of the more likely conditions with higher-than-normal acetylcholine levels.

    While other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, are also involved in promoting a positive state of mind and have direct associations with depression, research shows that acetylcholine activity and release are also involved.

    Heightened stress and anxiety tend to be a symptom of excessive acetylcholine levels. The anxiety effects can coincide with restlessness and jitters as well.

    Not only that, but the acetylcholine system is also critical for restful sleep and information processing that occurs during our natural sleep cycles and circadian rhythm.

    Research shows that when excess acetylcholine affects the central nervous system, some concerning health conditions may appear, including confusion, insomnia, and respiratory depression (1).

    In rare cases, often involving chronic exposure to toxins or poisoning, some potentially severe health conditions can occur, including convulsions, slurred speech, depression of respiration activity, and life-threatening effects on the heart and brain.

    Acetylcholine levels are critical in regulating so many mechanisms and the balance of brain health that abnormal activity can cause dire effects and illness. When this effect occurs, it can lead to improper processing on every level of the body and brain, from decreased cells to inhibiting behavior.

    What Causes High Acetylcholine Levels?

    Knowing the problems that can occur in the body and brain when we produce too much acetylcholine, it is essential to examine the factors, drugs, and other substances that can increase acetylcholine levels.

    Prescription Drugs

    Medication can inhibit acetylcholine levels and contribute to problematic concentrations of the beneficial neurotransmitter.

    Medicines used to treat myasthenia gravis can cause a release of acetylcholine in the brain.

    While more research is necessary to determine whether this can cause a troublesome level of ACh in the brain, if you take these types of prescriptions, keep it in consideration, especially if you are experiencing some of the activity that has associations with high levels of the neurotransmitter.

    Also, many drugs are used to treat Alzheimer’s disease that has high effectiveness because they influence the acetylcholine receptors to improve cognitive function and memory.

    However, since these medications work to support beneficial activity in the brain, they can cause excessive exposure in some cases, especially when combined with other causes of excessive acetylcholine levels.

    Substance Abuse

    Sometimes, the abuse of certain recreational drugs can also contribute to an unsafe boost of acetylcholine levels in the brain. The most commonly used drug that seems to impact the neurotransmitter negatively is nicotine.

    This is because nicotine stimulates the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. These effects on the nicotinic receptors mimic and activate acetylcholine, and some anti-smoking treatment options also influence the outcomes of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors.

    While more research is needed, there is evidence that stimulants cause some activity related to acetylcholine levels.

    Stimulants that may worsen the amount of acetylcholine in the brain system include cocaine and amphetamines, but the relationship is complicated and includes numerous factors (2).

    Acetylcholine-boosting Supplements

    There are a lot of choline supplements that can alter levels of acetylcholine in the brain. The most common ones are Alpha-GPC and citicoline.

    These nootropics are used to reduce mental fatigue, anxiety, and depression, but if taken too often or in extreme doses, they can have the opposite effect because of excessive acetylcholine.

    In addition, some racetam nootropics may also contribute to a fluctuation in ACh altering enzymes.

    Many natural supplements can be good for cognitive health and mood, but that may negatively impact neurotransmitters if you take too much. The most popular natural nootropics include Ginkgo biloba, Bacopa monnieri, and Huperzine A.

    When these nootropics are taken in recommended amounts, most people will experience better mood, lessened depression, reduced anxiety, better focus, and sustained energy effects.

    But that is only the case until acetylcholine levels become too high in the body.

    How Is Excess of Acetylcholine Diagnosed?

    Generally, having too much of any specific chemical in your body is not a diagnosis. Part of the reason for this is that it is complicated for humans to measure acetylcholine abundance in cells and would require blood, cerebrospinal fluid, and brain tissue.

    Since it is hard to prove or disprove that acetylcholine is the reason for a particular symptom, it is more common for a doctor or other healthcare professional to treat the health issue directly.

    For example, if you suffer from depression caused by substantial amounts of ACh, the doctor will only treat the symptomatic issues of depression or other illnesses.

    Another thing to help you come to your conclusions is to limit or eliminate potential causing factors and be aware of any positive or negative changes.

    If you notice that your mood, depression, or cognition improve, it may be best to discontinue the use of those causes altogether.

    How To Decrease Acetylcholine Naturally?

    Since having overly abundant acetylcholine buildup can compromise safety and well-being, knowing what you can do to block the production or action and lower the chemical concentration can help you resume healthy maintenance.

    There are a couple of ways proven by research to do this.


    Anticholinergics are a drug class that reduces the amount of acetylcholine, and they are used for a variety of different ailments.

    While the fundamental property that every anticholinergic possesses is the blocking of ACh, it is often other results and outcomes desirable for health reasons (3).

    Some of the most common compounds with anticholinergic properties are antihistamines and allergy medicines, like diphenhydramine (Benadryl).

    Many over-the-counter options are also used as occasional sleep aids or for motion sickness. In addition, some compounds in this class are also used for various asthma-related issues.

    For example, the same action is beneficial for people who suffer from COPD. Additionally, the anticholinergic and ACh blocking mechanisms also block some signals that cause jerking movements in Parkinson’s patients.

    Natural Supplements

    While many nootropics seek to raise ACh levels, there are also a few natural products that can reduce the amount of ACh.

    Some of these are stacked with nootropics that influence ACh to obtain other results without contributing to excessive amounts of the chemical.

    Furthermore, when using ACh-boosting products for health and nootropic outcomes, you may also find that taking a break and cycling some of these naturally-occurring options can help you avoid too much ACh, which can cause unwanted problems.

    One of the more popular plants for decreasing ACh is Kava Kava, a root known for its relaxing and subtly intoxicating qualities. This can be used for those undergoing a stressful period in life.

    In addition, some people believe that l-tyrosine helps break down ACh without substantially increasing the chemical production, thereby lowering the concentration gradually.

    Forskolin is another possible option, but it is mainly used for asthma and other respiratory health problems. However, some people claim it can help with a wide variety of other issues, like depression, weight loss, and glaucoma (4).

    Therefore, some nutrients may also be helpful, including Vitamins A, D, K, and Magnesium.

    These minerals and vitamins may also be suitable for some of the symptomatic issues of too much ACh and alleviate signs of depression, provide healthy sustained energy, and help with the susceptibility to stressful environments.

    Finally, piracetam may help if you have too much acetylcholine, unlike other racetams.

    However, while it works by breaking down ACh, it does not replenish it, and people usually must take other sources of ACh building blocks alongside the nootropic for the best results.

    However, some users have successfully taken just piracetam and achieved a nootropic result without causing ACh saturation.


    Having a deficiency or overabundance of acetylcholine can have negative side effects.

    If you experience multiple signs, it may be time to consider limiting the intake of compounds that impact acetylcholine and take a break from any nootropics being used.

    Alternatively, cycling solutions that lower ACh production in your brain could also help.