Ephedrine Abuse Signs and Symptoms
Ephedrine is a stimulant and a medication used to treat various conditions. The drug is made from the extract of a Chinese herb known as Ephedra sinica. Even though the plant has been recognized for thousands of years for its medicinal properties, the extracts used to make ephedrine pills may have adverse cardiovascular effects.
What Does Ephedrine Do?
Alkaloid compounds found in the ephedra plant have stimulant and thermogenic properties, which means they may stimulate processes in the body and raise a person’s metabolism. As a stimulant, the substance has been used to boost concentration and alertness. Due to its ability to stimulate the nervous system, it has sometimes been used by athletes to boost their energy, speed, and strength.
Members of the medical field have used the substance to treat a number of conditions. Ephedrine may increase the heart rate and has been used to prevent low blood pressure during certain surgical procedures. It may relax muscles and is a decongestant that has been used to treat asthma, influenza (the flu), and the common cold.
Before being banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2004, ephedrine was a popular ingredient in many weight loss supplements. The thermogenic properties of the plant extract may increase the metabolic rate and speed the process of weight loss. The drug is also a stimulant that suppresses appetite and enhances alertness, which has made it popular with athletes and people trying to lose weight.
Is Ephedrine Addictive?
Once sold over-the-counter without a prescription, ephedrine pills have been sold over-the-counter (OTC) to athletes looking for performance-enhancing substances, students looking to boost concentration, and partygoers looking for an energy boost or a feel-good drug.
Ephedrine is addictive and may produce serious psychological and physiological adverse effects. It has a chemical structure similar to methamphetamine (meth). Even though ephedrine is not as addictive as meth, users may still develop addictions to it if they use it over a prolonged period of time.
When used by truck drivers and athletes to boost alertness and performance, it may create dependency in users. When they become dependent on ephedrine, people may become unable to function without it. College students may also find that they are unable to concentrate, even though they may be using the substance for that very reason.
Furthermore, even though the drug is commonly used as a performance enhancer, some studies suggest that the benefits of ephedrine are only marginal. Due to ephedrine’s addictive and adverse effects, it is advisable to only use it under the recommendation of qualified medical professionals.
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How and Why Do People Abuse Ephedrine?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), substance abuse is “the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs.” Psychoactive substances affect the brain.
Even though abuse by definition is not the same as addiction, abuse often leads to tolerance and dependency. Users develop patterns that force them to use larger amounts of drugs or alcohol to achieve the same effects. The changes in brain chemistry mean that users may need drugs and alcohol to perform day-to-day tasks more efficiently or feel normal.
Some people use stimulants to keep up with the demands of their physically and psychologically challenging tasks. Ephedrine is one of the stimulants commonly used by people to keep fatigue at bay and maintain alertness and concentration while working or studying.
College students are also known to use substances known as smart pills or nootropics to boost concentration and alertness, especially when studying. The problem with abusing such substances is that they change brain chemistry and may lead to dependency.
The use of smart pills is not confined to students alone. People in professions that require attention and concentration for extended periods of time are also likely to be tempted to use these pills. A 2013 survey indicated that more 30 percent of more than 1,500 surgeons had used smart pills to enhance concentration and boost performance.
Substances such as ephedrine are also used as a drug for recreation. Ephedrine may enhance mental focus and generate excitement for tasks that would otherwise be seen as boring. An ephedrine high makes people feel energetic and focused. It is sometimes used by partygoers to generate excitement and confidence.
What Are Symptoms of Ephedrine Addiction?
Side effects from ephedrine are common if people do not take the drug according to doctors’ prescriptions. Even though the drug may seem harmless, it may lead to addiction, which may seriously impact on the users’ quality of life.
One of the common signs of addiction is tolerance. If you find that you need to use higher dosages of substances than you did in the past in order to achieve the same results, it is likely that you are addicted to the substances. Students, surgeons, and others may need to use higher doses if they used the substances for prolonged periods.
Another sign is a dependency on ephedrine and other drugs. Dependency may occur when people are unable to perform tasks without using substances. This means athletes and students may find that they cannot compete or remain alert when they cannot access ephedrine.
Physical Symptoms of Addiction
Since the ephedra plant has compounds that may stimulate the central nervous system (CNS), ephedrine side effects may be severe and cause adverse cardiovascular effects.
If you are addicted to ephedrine or other substances, you may experience the following physical symptoms:
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How Is Addiction Treated?
Abuse of ephedrine may cause strokes, a wide range of cardiovascular problems, and death. Treating addiction is based on protocols that are similar to other treatments for substance abuse.
During treatment, stopping the use of drugs or alcohol suddenly may cause adverse effects in the form of withdrawal symptoms. This may become more complicated if people used ephedrine medication for conditions such as breathing problems. Medical professionals may administer doses of ephedrine and reduce the dosages over time to prevent complications.
Since ephedrine changes brain chemistry and stimulates the central nervous system (CNS), the drug needs to be flushed out of the system. Professional rehabilitation facilities feature detox programs that are designed to eliminate ephedrine to help clients overcome the debilitating effects of withdrawal. Qualified practitioners conduct detox procedures to monitor potentially dangerous signs of withdrawal.
Treatment may take from four weeks to two months. During this time, clients may participate in counseling sessions to learn more about the negative effects of ephedrine. The counseling sessions help clients learn how to overcome addiction and how to identify environmental triggers that may cause relapses after recovery.
Once addiction treatment is complete, clients may return to their day-to-day activities. They are equipped with tools that help them deal with addiction and get back on their feet after rehabilitation. Professionally run facilities also provide access to intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) and other services to help recovering addicts prevent relapses and support ongoing sobriety.
Finding help is critical for recovery from ephedrine addiction. To ensure that your recovery is smooth, you need to consider different treatment options and programs carefully. Some treatment options to consider include:
- Outpatient programs: Outpatient programs are structured so that clients stay at home while they attend treatment sessions. Many outpatient programs offer similar treatment protocols as inpatient programs, such as detox procedures. The programs may suit people who have responsibilities, such as caring for children, that would make it difficult to attend inpatient programs.
- Inpatient programs: Inpatient programs require people to stay at facilities while they attend treatment. They may be less convenient for parents or people with many responsibilities. But inpatient programs are believed to yield better results, since clients may limit social influences and environmental triggers that contributed to their addictions.
Additionally, you may want to look for rehabilitation programs that feature:
- Detox: Detoxification (detox) needs to be conducted by qualified medical practitioners. Many centers have doctors who provide round-the-clock care to address the dangerous side effects of ephedrine.
- Dual diagnosis: This type of care treats substance abuse with mental illness. While people may abuse ephedrine to address anxiety and depression, in the long term, it can make both problems worse.
- Counseling: Individual and group counseling helps clients untangle negative thought patterns. Qualified therapist uses evidence-based counseling tools such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
- Extended care: Clients should receive care after the rehabilitation program. Extended care helps recovering addicts adjust and avoid relapses. Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), counseling, and vocational training may be provided to help clients adjust.
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