Dramamine contains the active ingredient dimenhydrinate, an antihistamine. Meclizine is also an antihistamine but is generally less sedating. In fact, meclizine is the active ingredient in another Dramamine product, Dramamine Less Drowsy Formula.

So, to discuss the difference between meclizine and Dramamine, I will focus on the difference between meclizine and dimenhydrinate.


Dramamine contains dimenhydrinate, a sedating antihistamine. Meclizine is also an antihistamine, but is less sedating. Meclizine is the active ingredient in Dramamine Less Drowsy Formula.

Dimenhydrinate Info

Dimenhydrinate is actually two molecular compounds attached to each other.

  • Diphenhydramine
  • 8-chlorotheophylline
Dimenhydrinate Molecular Structure

You may recognize diphenhydramine as it is the active ingredient in Benadryl. Dimenhydrinate is over 50% diphenhydramine by weight and therefore, the bulk of its effects comes from that.

Diphenhydramine is classified as a sedating antihistamine. Specifically, it is an ethanolamine antihistamine.

Ethanolamine antihistamines are known for their strong anticholinergic effects, which can cause the following side effects:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry eyes
  • Constipation

While many anticholinergic effects are undesirable, they help to relieve motion sickness by inhibiting stimulation of the inner ear.

8-chlorotheophylline is a derivative of theophylline, which itself is structurally similar to caffeine. This makes dimenhydrinate slightly less sedating than Benadryl, but still can cause significant drowsiness in many individuals. This is why Dramamine Less Drowsy Formula exists.

In total, dimenhydrinate contains of about 55% diphenhydramine and 45% 8-chlorotheophylline.

Section Summary

Dimenhydrinate is an ethanolamine antihistamine and the active ingredient in Dramamine. It consists of two chemical compounds: diphenhydramine and 8-chlorotheophylline.

Meclizine Info

Meclizine is also an antihistamine, but in a different class and generally has less sedating effects.

Unlike dimenhydrinate, which is an ethanolamine, meclizine is a piperazine-derivative.

As an antihistamine, meclizine works in the same manner as dimenhydrinate for the treatment of motion sickness. It does, however, have weaker anticholinergic effects than dimenhydrinate, which is why it tends to be better tolerated.

Section Summary

Meclizine is a piperazine-derivative antihistamine, which are generally less sedating than ethanolamine antihistamines like dimenhydrinate.

Dramamine Vs. Meclizine

As written above, Dramamine (dimenhydrinate) and meclizine are different antihistamines:

  • Dramamine contains dimenhydrinate, an ethanolamine antihistamine.
  • Meclizine, a piperazine-derivative antihistamine.

In general, antihistamines with stronger anticholinergic effects are more effective in treating motion sickness. This would mean that Dramamine (dimenhydrinate) may work better in this regard when compared to meclizine.

Comparative studies often report results showing Dramamine is slightly more effective than meclizine. However, it can cause more sedation than meclizine.

Choice of which drug, therefore, is a balance between effectiveness and side effects. If you are worried about being drowsy, meclizine (Dramamine Less Drowsy) may be an option to try.

Section Summary

Studies show that Dramamine (dimenhydrinate) may be slightly more effective in treating motion sickness than meclizine but is associated with stronger sedative effects.

  1. ^ Over-the-counter medications containing diphenhydramine and doxylamine used by older adults to improve sleep. PubMed
  2. ^ American Geriatrics Society 2019 Updated AGS Beers Criteria® for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults. PubMed
  3. ^ Cholinergic Influence on Vestibular Stimulation-Induced Locus Coeruleus Inhibition in Rats. Taylor & Francis Online
  4. ^ Central Nervous System Effects of Meclizine and Dimenhydrinate: Evidence of Acute Tolerance to Antihistamines. ACCP