Project 6

Ephedrine

Ephedrine

Ephedrine is a stimulant that speeds up the heart and the nervous system and is often found in herbal and diet pills. Its common side-effects include a racing heart, dry mouth and muscle spasms. Find out more...

What is it?

Ephedrine is a stimulant that speeds up the heart and nervous system.

It comes from a shrubby plant known as Ephedra sinensis. The shrub is well known to Chinese herbalists who call it 'Ma Huang'.

Pills and potions containing Ephedra or Ma Huang are sold as herbal E, as dietary aids and as remedies to increase energy and enhance fitness training.

Synthetic ephedrine is used in several cold medicines that you can buy at any chemist.

Crystal meth can be made from ephedrine.

How does it make you feel?

Ephedrine makes you alert and focused. It might send shivers up and down your spine, make your skin sensitive and give you a really confident, happy feeling.

Too much ephedrine can make you anxious. You may get a racing heart, dry mouth and muscle spasms.

What are the health effects?

Small amounts of ephedrine are used in cold remedies because it relaxes the airways and makes breathing easier.

Ephedrine raises heart rate and blood pressure. Long-term use can lead to heart attack and stroke in healthy people. It is very risky for anyone who has heart problems.

The law

At the moment it is legal to possess small amounts of ephedrine. It is contained in many cold and asthma remedies available in chemist shops.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Control Agency have proposed making it a prescription-only drug. Their aim is to make unprescribed ephedrine illegal.

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