Symptoms, Signs, and Treatment of Ephedrine Addiction

Symptoms, Signs, and Treatment of Ephedrine Addiction

Ephedrine is a stimulant for the central nervous system. It’s used for treating breathing problems as it serves as a bronchodilator for conditions like asthma and bronchitis. It also doubles as a decongestant for nasal congestion, as well as a blood pressure booster for those with low blood pressure issues like orthostatic hypotension. It is also considered the treatment of choice for myasthenia gravis, a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in the skeletal muscles.

The many uses of ephedrine contribute largely to why more and more people are starting to become dependent or downright abuse this multi-purpose medication. With that said, what are the symptoms, signs, and treatment for ephedrine addiction?

What Is Ephedrine and What Are Its Primary Effects?

Ephedrine is a legal thermogenic and stimulant drug manufactured from the Ephedra herb, hence its name. It’s mostly used for the treatment of conditions like bronchitis, asthma, and other respiratory conditions. It’s also been used for hypotension treatment and as an appetite suppressant. It’s also the drug that’s used for dysmenorrheal or menstrual pain, narcolepsy or sleep disorder, and various urinary issues.

It’s commonly used as a stimulant but also serves as a decongestant, concentration aid, appetite suppressant, and medication for treating hypotension that is linked with anesthesia use. It’s quite the multifaceted and versatile drug, which in part explains why it’s so popular in the first place. This is the main reason why the drug has a higher likelihood to be abused.

Many recreational drug users are quite fond of the effects that it produces, particularly the following:

  • Brain stimulation
  • Higher energy levels
  • Increased metabolism
  • Expansion of bronchial tubes
  • Heightened mood sensations
  • Increased body temperature or body heat

Ephedrine is one of the most popular stimulants out there that is abused by many, which then leads to addiction development quite fast.

Ephedrine Side Effects and Drug Interactions

Ephedrine’s most common side effects typically happen when taken in larger doses. They include the following.

  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss
  • Palpitations
  • Nervousness
  • Fast heart rate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficult or painful urination
  • Trouble sleeping or insomnia
  • Spinning sensation or vertigo

As for ephedrine withdrawal symptoms, they include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Paranoia
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Uncontrollable shaking

There’s a bit of an overlap between side effects and withdrawal symptoms as well, such that several items such as headache and nausea serve as both. Ephedrine withdrawal isn’t as severe compared to other stimulants or addictive drugs overall, but it’s still quite difficult to deal with once you develop an addiction to the drug.

Anytime you abuse or develop an addiction to ephedrine, you’ll have to deal with withdrawal symptoms. They appear every time you stop cold turkey or even pause on using it. These symptoms will vary from one person to another. Some symptoms are more bearable than others. However, all of them tend to be quite unpleasant.

As for drug interactions, it might interact with the following:

  • Digoxin
  • Oxytocin
  • Atropine
  • Theophylline
  • Beta blockers
  • St. John’s Wort
  • MAO inhibitors
  • Diuretics or water pills
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Blood pressure medicine
  • Other adrenalin-type drugs

During pregnancy, ephedrine should only be taken as prescribed by your doctor. It’s unknown whether the drug passes to breast milk, so breastfeeding isn’t recommended when taking the drug because of the potential harm it might cause to your child.

Your ephedrine dosage should be based on the doctor’s prescription and recommendations as well as the patient’s response to therapy and medical condition. Usually, ephedrine prescriptions for recommended dosages involve adults taking no more than 150 milligrams of the drug or children taking no more than 75 milligrams.

This isn’t a complete side effects list for ephedrine. Other unlisted side effects might occur, like you getting an allergic reaction from the drug. Call your doctor for more details and medical advice on the side effects you’re experiencing. If you’re from the U.S.A., you can report the side effects to the Food and Drug Administration or FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Effects and Physical Symptoms of Ephedrine Addiction

Pills, a selection of pharmaceutical drugs, Legal drugs, packaging, capsules. Bottle of pills Moody Lighting.

Even though ephedrine is derived from an herb, it doesn’t mean that it’s all natural and that you’re less likely to develop an addiction from it. On the contrary, unregulated as well as prolonged use of ephedrine can cause not only dependence on the drug, but several serious side effects that can take a toll on your body. Abusing ephedrine to the point of addiction usually occur in those who need to increase their dose because they’ve developed ephedrine tolerance.

On top of that, their body and mind have become dependent on it, such that using ephedrine every day is their new normal. If you’re an addict and there’s no ephedrine in your system, your body and mind will stage a mutiny against your common sense, compelling you through strong cravings to obtain more of the drug even though you should know better than to keep on using this medication.

If you don’t heed these cravings, your body will thusly undergo withdrawal symptoms linked to ephedrine addiction. There are several physical symptoms that indicate you’re already addicted to the drug. Their occurrence and severity depend on the length of time you’ve been using the medicine and the amounts or doses of it you’ve taken.

The typical signs and symptoms of ephedrine addiction include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Hypertension
  • Hallucinations

The serious symptoms or complications of ephedrine addiction include the following:

  • Coma
  • Death
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Heart attack
  • Liver damage
  • CNS shut down
  • Irregular heartbeat

What Does Ephedrine Abuse Mean?


You’re abusing ephedrine if you’re using it in excessive amounts above the recommended dosage not because you’re treating certain conditions too overzealously but instead because you’re seeking pleasure or some other side benefit outside of treatment. Abuse doesn’t necessarily mean that the abuser will become addicted. However, the chances of the abuser to become an addict are much higher when they abuse a drug compared to someone who sticks to his prescription.

Addictions develop over time. Whenever you abuse ephedrine for an extended time period, you will develop a tolerance to it because you’re desensitized to its effects. You will then chase the high or original effects of your early doses by increasing your dose until you get the same effects as before. As your tolerance rises your abuse also rises to keep up, which leads to dependence to the drug as well as full-blown addiction. This condition causes mental and physical harm to you and everyone involved with you.

Many countries have banned ephedrine from use, but it can still be prescribed for certain medical reasons or be bought on the streets illegally just like in the case of marijuana in light of the U.S. marijuana ban. As much as possible, never abuse this drug or any other drug in your possession or use for your own good. Becoming an addict will leave an indelible print in your life that’s hard to recover from.

Signs of Ephedrine Addiction

Are you addicted to this drug? Do you know someone who is exhibiting signs of addiction to ephedrine in particular? Here are the signs that you or someone you love could be an ephedrine addict already, thus necessitating an intervention and/or immediate rehab in centers like Lanna Rehab.

  • High Tolerance Development: You might develop a high tolerance for ephedrine the more you abuse it, which means you’ll need more of it to get the desired effect as your first dose. Your body has a knack to get used to anything as long as it’s exposed to it for a long enough period of time. The longer you take ephedrine, the higher your tolerance for it, although it varies from individual to individual how tolerant of the drug you can become even when they take the drug for the same amount of time.
  • Abuse Leads to Dependence: Some of the main signs that you or a loved one is addicted to ephedrine include abusing the drug and taking it outside the recommended dosages and prescription of your doctor. This is because ephedrine is an adrenalin medication that people might take in order to get high or excitable. Ephedrine has been used recreationally as a stimulant of sorts similar to coffee or methamphetamine.
  • Reasons for Recreational Usage: Most ephedrine abuse occurs because it’s being used recreationally and without a prescription. Recreational ephedrine users get all sorts of effects from it, from their brain becoming more stimulated and creative to their mood sensations being heightened. Its physical effects also add to the mental and emotional high, such as their increase in metabolism, higher energy levels, and increase in body temperature almost to the point of being feverish.
  • Cravings and Withdrawal Symptoms: You should become more self-aware of yourself and your behavior. By doing so, you should identify the signs and symptoms of your addiction, including the pangs or cravings you have of ephedrine when you don’t use it. You can also get side effects from not using the drug after using it for so long, which are known as withdrawal symptoms. Self-awareness of being an addict is the first step towards recovery from addiction.

Ephedrine Addiction Development

Never underestimate the addictiveness of any drug, including something as common as ephedrine. Many ephedrine addicts ended up that way because they failed to realize the harmful effects this medication, leading to a downward spiral of dependence because they had their guard down all the while.

  • Ephedrine Isn’t as Harmless as People Think: If you take ephedrine outside of the recommended doses or methods of consumption for the sake of getting high, you might develop an addiction to it Addiction usually happens because people don’t view the drug as harmful. They think it’s as harmless as asthma medication or aspirin (even though those drugs also have their own respective issues and effects).
  • Why Ephedrine Is Abused and Who Abuses It: Even though many national and state commissions ban the drug, many weightlifters and sports athletes abuse ephedrine as a PED in order to get an edge when it comes to their competition. Truck drivers and college students also use it as a stimulant or an extra-strong version of coffee because of the drug’s performance-enhancing abilities. People who want to lose weight often use and abuse the drug because it’s viewed as the ultimate weight loss people.
  • Weight Watchers and Athletes: Because of the drug’s appetite suppressant abilities, many people who wish to lose weight and sculpt their body might abuse the drug to the point of addiction in order to get rid of all their fatness or treat their obesity. Athletes might also depend on the metabolism boost or improved respiratory ability by using the ephedrine as a performance-enhancing drug during training and competition while claiming it’s instead being used to treat some sort of condition.
  • Adrenalin Junkies and Normalization: Adrenalin junkies might go and take ephedrine on top of or aside from engaging in risky behavior that gives them a natural adrenalin rush of sorts. With that in mind, the biggest sign of addiction for ephedrine users is normalization of regular ephedrine uptake. If it gets to the point that you can’t function without the drug or else you’ll get withdrawal symptoms, then you’re addicted.
  • How Ephedrine Is Taken Normally: The drug can be bought in liquid, tablet, or nasal spray form. It’s typically taken orally. You can however opt to crush the drug and then snort the powder afterwards for a more impactful and immediate high compared to oral consumption that takes a while to kick in. The digestive system has to filter the drug first before it reaches your bloodstream after all. Snorting the drug leads to a more direct route to your system.
  • How Ephedrine Is Abused: When abusing ephedrine, you can swallow it, snort it, or inject it directly into your bloodstream. The more potent your method of ephedrine delivery the more likely you are to abuse it and become dependent on it. Simply take it outside of the recommended dosage and keep chasing the high you originally got from it as you build tolerance and keep moving the line on what you can tolerate, and soon enough you’ll be abusing the drug to the point of addiction.
  • Watch Out for Overdose: People tend to underestimate the addictiveness of ephedrine just because it’s derived from an herb, forgetting that many illicit or dangerous substances are plant-based or organic instead of manmade or synthetic. Ephedrine is not a safer stimulant alternative and it can lead to overdose. Overdosing on ephedrine, as noted above, can lead to serious health complications like seizures, live damage, stroke, heart attack, coma, or even death.

Ephedrine Addiction Treatment

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Numerous deaths have arisen from ephedrine abuse and addiction because it doesn’t have as infamous a reputation as meth or even marijuana. People take it for granted as the safer stimulant because it’s herb-derived. Little do they know that it can be as addictive and fatal as the deadliest narcotics. It’s important for anyone involved in the abuse and dependence of this drug to get treatment ASAP.

  • Detoxification: The first thing you’ll undergo when in a rehab center is medically assisted detoxification or detox. The doctors and nurses of the medical facility will supervise and observe your body’s reaction to the gradual removal of ephedrine from your system and treat any withdrawal symptoms associated with it. They’re the ones who’ll make sure it’s easier physically and emotionally for you to go through ephedrine detox without you relapsing.
  • Residential Treatment Center: After you’ve undergone detox, that’s when you’re moved to a residential or inpatient treatment center where you’re secluded from drug pushers, drugstores, peer pressure, and enablers. It’s here that you’ll undergo psychological treatment in the form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT) as well as other psychotherapy methods and sessions in both individual and group settings.
  • Rehab Completion and Aftercare: Once you’ve been taught how to handle your addiction and the inevitable pangs of relapse, you’ll then be returned home. Some rehab centers like Lanna Rehab offer extra months of inpatient rehab stay in case you’re not ready to face society yet and go back to your regular life. There’s also an aftercare program included that covers updates and follow-ups in regards to your state of sobriety and health 6 months to a year removed from your treatment.

The Bottom Line

Ephedrine is a drug developed for treatment of mostly respiratory problems as well as urine-control problems, dysmenorrhea, and narcolepsy. It’s also available as a generic medication. When getting prescribed for ephedrine, you should tell your doctor about all the medications you’re taking as well as your medical history and conditions so that he’s informed fully of potential drug interactions and complications from using the drug.

As you can see, there are many reasons why recreational drug users or full-blown drug addicts might use and abuse this particular medication. More often than not, people are ignorant of the myriad of side effects and harmful results of using this drug, thus they’re encouraged to continue using it to the point of abuse. This will then lead to drug tolerance, prolonged usage, and dependence or addiction development.

Dependency to this drug doesn’t only harm your body and mind; it also harms your friends and family around you.

Go to Lanna Rehab and Get Your Ephedrine Addiction Treated

Ephedrine is a popularly abused prescription medication because people depend on recreationally for its effects like increased body temperatures, brain stimulation, heightened mood sensations, higher energy levels, and increased metabolism. It’s a stimulating stimulant through and through. If you find yourself dependent on this drug, then you should book a flight to Chiang Mai’s Lanna Rehabilitation Center for assistance.

Lanna Rehab is many times more affordable—or rather, cost-effective—than your local inpatient or outpatient rehab clinics because Thailand is a medical tourism hotspot and the country regularly services addicts coming from Australia as well as rehab tourists from the west.

Please contact them today through their hotlines and get a FREE consultation plus booking information.

Martin Peters

Martin Peters has a BA (Hons) Dip HE Dip RN CSAT III and is the Group Program Director Lanna Healthcare. He is a Registered Nurse and Certified Substance Abuse Therapist working in the mental health field since 1994; Martin has had a wide range of experience in management and supervisory roles within established healthcare systems, and has provided consultancy services to a number of private and public sector organizations in the UK and Asia in terms of management, policy writing, accreditation and recruitment. Martin’s addictions experience has been in developing inpatient services in Thailand since 2009, both clinical and operational. He has been instrumental in expanding and developing a non 12 step inpatient treatment centre and opening a further inpatient centre with a 12 step approach, implementing KIPU Electronic Records, strengthening hospital partnerships, introducing a Scholarship for students under the Masters in Addiction Studies Program at The ASEAN Institute for Health Development and working with an international accreditation body. Martin has also been a speaker at several international conferences on addiction, including ASEAN conferences and has also guest lectured at Mahidol University (Thailand), University of Sarghoda (Pakistan) Institute of Medical Sciences (Pakistan) and has been a representative on the CARF Standards Advisory Committee for 2016.In 2015. Martin became a Co-Founder of Lanna Healthcare, launching Lanna Rehab in March 2016 and opening Jintra in January 2018. In June of 2018, Martin was involved in the merger of Lanna and DARA, becoming Thailand's biggest private licensed operator. Martin is currently a Joint and Asia Health Co Ltd Owner Operator of Lanna Healthcare Co Ltd, which under its umbrella manages Lanna Rehab in Chiang Mai, Jintra Rehab in Chiang Mai and DARA Rehab in Koh Chang - all Thailand MoPH Licensed Addiction Facilities providing world-class treatment in Thailand.

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