Dangers of Ephedrine
Answered by: Susan Eagles
Question from: Blackman
Posted on: April 8, 1998

I would like to know more about the dangers of ephedrine.

Ephedrine, originally from the plant Ephedra but now usually synthetic, is often used to dilate the bronchial tubes in respiratory conditions such as asthma. It is very effective and safe when no other diseases are present or prescription medicines being taken.

Because of its potency in stimulating the circulation, and its reactions with other drugs, it must be taken only under supervision of a qualified practitioner. Contra-indications are high blood pressure, diabetes, glaucoma, thyrotoxicosis (over-activity of thyroid gland), enlarged prostate, difficulty in urinating and coronary thrombosis (blood clot). Used in combinations with some other drugs, especially monoamine oxidase inhibitor anti-depressants, it can cause life threatening increase in blood pressure. Used in combination with stimulants such as caffeine drinks, it can cause nervousness or insomnia.

As a circulatory stimulant, the action of ephedrine is to dilate the blood vessels around the heart. It acts by stimulating the body’s sympathetic nervous system, which is the system that produces the "fight-or-flight" response. Some of the effects of this stimulation are to: increase the heart rate, force of contraction and blood pressure; relax the lungs & bronchial muscles to allow rapid, deeper breathing; constrict the blood vessels of internal organs such as the kidney that are not required for "fight-or-flight" action.

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