What are the dangers of ephedrine recreational use? Taking this supplement at high dosages can produce serious harmful side effects with lasting consequences.
The ephedra plant and its alkaloids have been used as traditional cough remedies for thousands of years. Ephedrine exhibits a nasal decongestant effect and has also been studied for its ability to promote weight loss.
While ephedrine is not classified as a street drug, it does have some similar properties to amphetamine. Ephedra sinica supplements have in the past been promoted as “herbal ecstasy”.
This stimulant also exerts a mood-boosting effect by increasing activity of catecholamines, norepinephrine and dopamine. In high doses, it is reported to cause euphoria and a drug-like experience.
However, anyone taking this product for recreational use rather than medical purposes should be aware of the potentially fatal side effects linked to abuse of this drug
Any drug poses a risk of adverse effects when taken at high doses or intentionally misused. Use of high doses can lead to reduced tolerance, ephedrine addiction, withdrawal symptoms as well as hazardous cardiovascular effects. Click here to buy ephedra supplements online legally without a prescription.
Ephedra and Ephedrine Review
Can ephedra and ephedrine even give you a high anyway? While this herb does exhibit a mood-enhancing effect, this is not the typical reason why people take this product.
Ephedra is a plant that contains a number of alkaloids that promote a stimulatory effect on the body, primarily the central nervous system and cardiovascular function. These alkaloids include:
There are over 60 different species of this plant, but one of the best known is
ephedra sinica or Chinese Ma Huang plant. Other species include Ephedra Nevadensis (also known as Mormon Tea) and Ephedra Distachya.
In traditional Chinese medicine, ephedra extract was used as a diaphoretic (to induce sweating) as well as an antipyretic (to reduce or prevent fever). It was believed to help dispel body heat and to improve lung function.
Ephedrine is the main active alkaloid in this plant. It was first identified and isolated in 1887 and has since been introduced as an over-the-counter drug used to treat asthma and breathing conditions.
This alkaloid is classified as a sympathomimetic drug whose actions are similar to epinephrine (adrenaline). This drug increases blood pressure, contracts nasal mucosa, and dilates bronchial muscles.
Due to this mechanism of action, ephedrine is used in bronchodilator medications to relieve chest tightness, wheezing symptoms and dilate airways. It is also used in herbal medicine as a treatment for sinus congestion and for relief of symptoms caused by the common cold.
Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine behave as nonselective alpha and beta receptor agonists and can influence:
- Respiratory rate
- Heart rate
- Constriction of peripheral blood vessels
- Contractility of the heart muscle
The stimulant effects of ephedra and ephedrine may also contribute to some fat-burning potential, which is what has made such products so popular over the past few decades.
This supplement was previously used by dieters and athletes to boost weight loss results, increase energy levels, suppress appetite and enhance metabolic activity. Ephedra and its alkaloids have been banned in the United States since 2004 because of perceived dangers of use.
Not all individuals abusing high dosages of ephedrine are doing so to lose weight or increase physical performance. This drug is also used off-label by students to increase energy, focus and ability to study for long periods of time. Long-distance truckers also commonly turn to stimulants to help them stay awake.
Some people use stimulants like ephedrine not only to enhance athletic performance, but to help with quitting smoking or other bad habits. This drug is also sometimes used as a non-prescription alternative to Adderall and Ritalin.
Ephedrine High – Why It’s Not Recommended
While not typically considered a recreational drug, ephedra and its alkaloids can affect mood by influencing dopamine receptor activity in the brain. In some countries around the world, ephedrine HCL is known as the “poor man’s cocaine”.
Users online report taking ephedrine pills, nasal sprays or liquid drops recreationally to achieve a euphoric ecstasy-like effect. According to comments left on forum boards, some users experience a “buzzed” feeling when taking products like Mini-Thins, Stacker 2’s and Yellow Jackets.
One user described the effects as a tingling feeling accompanied with a rapid heartbeat. The user wrote, ” Suffice to say, I was not very happy for a while and I had to wait 3 hours before I started to feel normal again. The way I felt is when you take an overdose of caffeine….very agitated and jittery. After this horrible experience I decided to stay away from ephedrine for a while.”
Ephedrine is similar in chemical structure to amphetamine and methamphetamine. It is one of the primary chemical precursors used in the manufacture of Crystal Meth. 
It can produce a powerful stimulant effect, but when combined with other herbal products or alcohol can cause a “spaced out” feeling for some. Combining any type of stimulant with alcohol or other drugs is strongly cautioned against and can have a negative influence on cardiovascular function.
Reports in medical journals describe high dosages of ephedrine as potentially dangerous for a number of reasons, including but not limited to:
- Potential for rhabdomyolysis – breakdown of muscle fibers and tissues
- Cardio-respiratory side effects
- Psychiatric side effects
A number of alarming psychological effects have been linked to use of this herb in controlled studies. Excessive use of ephedra can trigger mania, psychosis, hallucinations, paranoia, violent behavior, and even suicide attempts. Some of the case involved combined use with other mood-altering substances. 
The psychotropic effects and side effects of ephedrine are similar to those caused by use of amphetamines including :
- Increased anxiety and irritability
The dangers of ephedrine recreational use to get high also include potential cardiovascular damage, especially in the cases of an overdose. Symptoms of an overdose present with irregular heartrate, faster than normal heartbeat, and significantly elevated blood pressure.
Psychosis has been linked to chronic and high-dose misuse of ephedra or ephedrine. 
Can You Build up a Tolerance?
When using any stimulant drug, there exists a potential for developing a tolerance to the effects. Some sources argue that ephedrine tolerance is low, and this drug does not need to be cycled.
However, tolerance to any stimulant, including caffeine, can gradually increase over time depending on dosage, frequency of use, and duration of use.
Ephedrine works partly by stimulating the beta(2) class of adrenergic receptors. These receptors can become down-regulated or desensitized in the presence of any agonist.
Individuals using ephedra and ephedrine often report becoming less sensitive to the stimulatory effects with regular use. This is dangerous because many of these individuals begin gradually increasing dosages to unsafe levels to compensate for the loss in efficacy.
Research suggests that beta(2) receptors are re-sensitized quickly following down-regulation. Therefore, ephedrine tolerance may be less significant compared to caffeine tolerance.
Risk of Physical Addiction
Can you become addicted to the effects of this stimulant? According to medical professional, ephedrine does have the potential to cause a physical addiction, but it can take some time to develop this dependence. 
For some, this dependency is more mental than physical. However, there is research that suggests a potential for a physiological addiction to ephedrine’s effects.
Ephedrine addiction has been noted among those using it as a diet aid due to the long duration of use. While weight-loss products are not recommended for long-term use, there are reports of men and women consuming ephedra products for many consecutive months or years.
In one specific case, a British woman experienced not only tolerance, but dependence, and addiction symptoms. Her use of this product that caused pulmonary hypertension and she was told she only had 10 years left to live. 
Users who quit taking ephedrine suddenly without tapering down their dosage sometimes report withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may be similar to withdrawal from caffeine and other stimulant drugs.
If you have been taking this drug for a long period of time, it is recommended to stop taking it by gradually decreasing the dosage used over one to two weeks.
Symptoms associated with withdrawal can include:
- An increased sense of agitation and/or irritability
- Severe tremors or seizures
- Lack of appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings
The severity of withdrawal symptoms can depend on dosages use, frequency of use, how long it was taken for, individual health status, whether other drugs or supplements were used and whether ephedrine is being substituted with any other compound.
If you have been prescribed ephedrine HCL or sulfate for medical use, consult with a doctor about the appropriate way to discontinue using this medication.
Is Ephedrine a Legal High?
Ephedrine HCL pills are promoted as a legal high on some websites, but this is not necessarily true. Depending on where you live, the sale of this compound is subject to different regulations and legal statutes.
In certain parts of the USA, it can be purchased legally as an over-the-counter asthma medication or breathing remedy. However, pure ephedrine HCL is no longer legal to sell without a prescription.
The only formulations that are allowed contain a maximum of 12.5 or 25mg ephedrine HCL combined with 200 mg or 400 mg of guaifenesin. This is an expectorant that is used to thin mucosal secretions and make it easier to cough up phlegm.
Furthermore, purchasers of this product are required to show government-issued photo ID when they buy it from a pharmacy. Customers are also tracked in a central database and your name, address and purchase details will be stored for a minimum of two years.
In other countries such as Canada, ephedrine HCL is legal to buy without a prescription, but there are limitations on the dosages allowed. Ephedra extract is banned in dietary supplements.
In the UK, some forms of this drug are available over-the-counter while other forms require a prescription from a licensed physician. It is illegal to sell any product that contains more than 180 mg of ephedrine without a prescription. 
Using ephedrine as a “legal high” is dangerous to your health and could cause you to run afoul of the law in your local region. Taking this product at high dosages for long periods of time can result in tolerance, addiction or withdrawal symptoms. It is strongly recommended to put your health first and not risk the dangers of ephedrine recreational use.
- Gov.UK. Drug Safety Update. Pseudoephedrine and ephedrine: update on managing risk of misuse.
- DoctorsHangout.com. A Professional Networking Site for Doctors & Medical Students Worldwide. Ephedrine: Recreational and Illicit uses
- Maglione M, Miotto K, Iguchi M, Hilton L, Shekelle P. Psychiatric symptoms associated with ephedra use. Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2005 Sep;4(5):879-84.
- L Avois, N Robinson, C Saudan, N Baume, P Mangin, M Saugy. Central nervous system stimulants and sports practice. Br J Sports Med. 2006 Jul; 40(Suppl 1): i16–i20. Doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2006.027557
- DrugREhab.org. Can Ephedrine Be Abused And Is It Addictive?” June 7, 2016. Accessed Sept. 19, 2017.
- Daily Mail. Antonia Hoyle. Michelle thought diet pills could help her drop a dress size. Now she’s got just ten years to live. 19 September 2012. Accessed September 23, 2017.