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Ephedrine

Ephedrine (EPH) is a stimulant used as an appetite suppressant, concentration aid, decongestant, and us to also treat hypotension associated with anaesthesia. Chemically, it is an alkaloid derived from various plants in the genus Ephedra.

Ephedrine's mechanism of its action relies on its direct and indirect actions on the sympathetic nervous system. Ephedrine's mechanism of action on neurotransmission in the brain is wide. Its action as an agonist at most major noradrenaline receptors and its ability to increase the release of both dopamine and to a lesser extent, serotonin .

Because of ephedrine's ability to potentiate dopamine neurotransmission it is thought to have addictive properties by some researchers.

Anecdotal reports have suggested that ephedrine helps studying, thinking, or concentrating to a greater extent than caffeine. Some students and some white-collar workers have used ephedrine (or Ephedra-containing herbal supplements) for this purpose, as well as some professional athletes and weightlifters. It is common for many athletes to use stimulants while exercising. Such use of ephedrine has been associated with stimulant dependence, as well as deaths from heatstroke in athletes and circulatory problems such as aortic aneurysm in weightlifters, though these side effects are rare.

Ephedrine has a similar chemical structure to amphetamines. Because of ephedrine's structural similarity to methamphetamine it can be used to create methamphetamine using chemical reduction in which ephedrine's hydroxy group is removed; this has made ephedrine a highly sought-after chemical precursor in the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine.

In E for Ecstasy (a book examining the uses of the drug MDMA in the UK) the writer, activist and Ecstasy advocate Nicholas Saunders highlighted test results showing that certain consignments of the drug also contained ephedrine. Consignments of Ecstasy known as "Strawberry" contained what Saunders described as a "potentially dangerous combination of ketamine, ephedrine and selegiline," as did a consignment of "Sitting Duck" Ecstasy tablets.

In the UK ephedrine is regulated as a P medicine: it may only be lawfully supplied within a registered pharmacy and while a responsible pharmacist is present.  These are intended as a nasal decongestant but are known to be used by bodybuilders. Higher strengths of pure ephedrine are available as prescription-only medicines but are not currently Controlled Drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act.


 
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