What is Ephedrine?

Ephedrine is found in a number of cold remedies and asthma treatments. It is a stimulant drug that is extracted from an oriental plant called Ma Huang. It is also found  as well as an ingredient in some herbal highs which are marketed under a number of names including Cloud 9 and Nirvana Plus. Sometimes referred to as “herbal ecstasy” the drug is actually closer in its effects to amphetamine (speed).

Ephedrine is a stimulant  increases the heart rate and blood pressure, speeds up the metabolism, expands bronchial tubes and raises body temperature. It is a commonly abused drug because of these effects and users quickly run the risk of becoming addicted to the drug.

In sport, ephedrine is listed on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances as it is seen a performance enhancing when taken in high quantities. In 2007, Sheffield United goalkeeper Paddy Kenny failed a drug test after testing positive for ephedrine.

What are the effects of ephedrine?

Ephedrine abuse occurs when the drug is taken in excessive amounts for recreation only. Long-term use of the drug can lead to dependence and addiction.  Physical effects of using ephedrine include:

  • Increased heart rate and raised blood pressure.
  • Easier breathing as the bronchioles in the lungs are dilated
  • Heighten feeling of alertness and focus
  • Sensitive skin and shivers down the spine

What risk does taking ephedrine have?

  • A dry mouth, restlessness and nausea are all common symptoms
  • Anxiety, vomiting, insomnia, tremors and heart palpitations can all be experienced when the drug is take in large quantities.
  • Strokes and heart attack have been linked to long-term recreational misuse

Legal status of ephedrine

  • At present, the drug is not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act, therefore personal possession and use of the drugs in small amounts is not illegal.
  • The Medicines Act prohibits the marketing of ephedrine as an unlicensed preparation

Street names for ephedrine

Slang terms for ephedrine include trucker speed and Mini-Thins,

Ephedrine drug test kits

A presumptive drug testing kit is often used by professionals and police to identify the drug when found in possession or when checking premises for drugs of abuse.

Photo Credit: Loenora Enking on Flickr