Prescription drug abuse is the most deadly type of addiction in the United States. Contrary to popular belief, however, even medication sold over the counter (OTC) can result in addiction or cause other serious problems. One commonly abused type of OTC drug is diet pills containing ephedrine. Many people might take ephedrine to lose weight or for recreational purposes without realizing how powerful the drug really is. Using too much of the drug or using it too often can have surprisingly dangerous consequences.
Ephedrine is a powerful stimulant and decongestant found in a wide range of medications, but most often abused in the form of diet pills. As a stimulant related to amphetamines, the drug can increase the user’s heart rate and body temperature as well as provide a feeling of increased energy. Each diet pill typically contains 8 mg of ephedrine, with an FDA recommended maximum daily dosage set at 24 mg, or three pills per day (New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services). The FDA also recommends that usage of the diet pills not exceed one week. When these guidelines are broken, whether through ignorance or for recreational purposes, the drug can become deadly.
Teens often take large quantities of diet pills to feel a “rush” as large amounts of stimulants course through their system. People at clubs are also known to use ephedrine pills as a cheap and legal alternative to ecstasy. Taking too much ephedrine at once or for periods longer than a week can result in unpleasant and dangerous reactions to the drug. Physical side effects include restlessness, dizziness, headaches, muscle injury and vomiting. The drug is particularly hard on the cardiovascular system, causing irregular heartbeat, heart palpitations, seizures, stroke and heart attack. People with hypertension are at particular risk of serious injury when taking ephedrine and caffeine use in conjunction with the drug magnifies the threat.
Ephedrine abuse can also have serious psychological consequences. Excessive use of the drug can result in restlessness, insomnia, memory loss and even psychosis. Prolonged use of ephedrine can cause the abuser to develop an addiction, resulting in powerful and seemingly irresistible cravings for the drug when not under its effects. Even when addicts try to stop using a drug, they may feel powerless to break the habit. Addiction can result in prolonged unsafe usage of the drug or drive the addict to move on to harder drugs.
If you or someone you know has become addicted to OTC diet pills or any other substance, it’s important to act quickly before the situation gets worse. Treatments can be tailored to your personal circumstances to ensure that you get the support you need. The Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline of California offers qualified advice and information about the recovery options available in your area. Call us any time to speak with an addiction specialist.