Although abuse of pseudoephedrine is generally uncommon, the medication can be misused in several ways. Using the decongestant to make methamphetamine is the best-known way that the drug is misused. People also sometimes use pseudoephedrine for its ephedra-like effects in an attempt to lose weight. It is important to know that abusing this drug (taking it for non-medicinal reasons) can be dangerous.
An Overview of Pseudoephedrine Abuse
Pseudoephedrine is a non-prescription decongestant medication that is most often used to treat nasal or sinus congestion due to allergies or the common cold. Although it is not traditionally considered a drug of abuse, pseudoephedrine can be misused in a few different ways.
Why Is Pseudoephedrine Abused?
Pseudoephedrine can be used to make methamphetamine ("meth"), and this is probably the best-known way that the medication is misused. However, the medication can also be abused by taking it for non-medicinal purposes. For instance, pseudoephedrine causes a stimulatory reaction in many individuals, causing a rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and an excitable, hyperactive feeling. Athletes have been known to abuse pseudoephedrine to help them get "pumped" before a competition. People also sometimes use pseudoephedrine for its ephedra-like effects in an attempt to lose weight.
Taking pseudoephedrine for non-medicinal uses can be dangerous. When abusing pseudoephedrine for weight loss or athletic performance, people sometimes take more than the recommended dose. This can lead to heart palpitations, irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias), or even heart attacks.
Pseudoephedrine is not addictive in the traditional sense. Although people who abuse it may find they need higher doses to achieve the desired effects, physical withdrawal symptoms are unlikely.
Food and Drug Administration, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Some cold medicines move behind counter (2006). FDA Web site. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2006/406_meth.html. Accessed January 29, 2009.
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