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What Is Pseudoephedrine? Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects


When you're dealing with cold symptoms like a stuffy nose or trouble breathing, it may seem natural to reach for a decongestant. But many of these seemingly harmless drugs — even over-the-counter options like pseudoephedrine — have the potential for abuse. So if you're concerned about a friend or loved one misusing OTC drugs, or are trying to stay on your own path to sobriety, here's what you need to know about pseudoephedrine.

What Is Pseudoephedrine?

Pseudoephedrine is a common decongestant that's found in many over-the-counter cold and sinus medications, such as Sudafed. Pseudoephedrine works by narrowing blood vessels and decreasing swelling and inflammation in the nasal passages. This can help to relieve congestion due to colds, allergies, and sinus infections.

In addition to reducing inflammation and relieving congestion, pseudoephedrine can also help to clear mucus from the airways, improve breathing, and prevent or relieve headaches caused by sinus pressure.

How Is Pseudoephedrine Used?

Pseudoephedrine is available in tablet, capsule, and liquid form. It's typically taken every four to six hours as needed. When used as directed, pseudoephedrine can be an effective way to ease congestion. But when abused, it can have serious side effects.

Side Effects of Pseudoephedrine Use

Even if carefully used as directed, pseudoephedrine can have a number of mild side effects, including:

  • Drowsiness
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach

Usually, these side effects are temporary and not a cause for concern. However, when abused, pseudoephedrine can also cause additional and potentially significant side effects.

Pseudoephedrine Abuse and Addiction

Pseudoephedrine is a medication that has been used for many years as a decongestant. It is an active ingredient in many over-the-counter (OTC) cold and sinus medications. However, because it can also be used to synthesize illegal drugs, it is now kept behind the pharmacy counter in the United States.

Pseudoephedrine misuse can lead to many serious side effects, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Delusions
  • Trembling
  • Confusion
  • Aggression
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

If you're abusing pseudoephedrine, your risk of these side effects goes up significantly. And if you already have a history of mental illness, your risk is even higher.

Pseudoephedrine and Meth

Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in methamphetamine (meth), a very powerful and addictive illegal stimulant. When pseudoephedrine is used in meth, it is called "crystal meth." Crystal meth is an especially addictive form of methamphetamine made by cooking pseudoephedrine with other chemicals.

The meth epidemic is a very real problem in the United States. In 2015, there were more than 11,000 meth lab incidents reported by law enforcement nationwide. This is a significant increase from just a few years ago. In 2008, there were only about 3000 meth lab incidents reported.

One of the reasons for this increase is that pseudoephedrine is more easily available now than it was in the past. In 2006, the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act was passed in an effort to control the sale of pseudoephedrine. The law placed restrictions on the sale of products containing pseudoephedrine and required that buyers provide identification and sign a logbook when purchasing these products.

Despite these restrictions, pseudoephedrine is still widely available and meth use continues to be a serious problem in the United States.

Addiction Treatment Options

If you or someone you know is abusing pseudoephedrine or methamphetamines, it's important to get help right away. There are a number of treatment options available, and the sooner you get started, the better your chances of recovery will be.

Treatment typically begins with detoxification, which is the process of getting rid of the drugs in your system. This can be done through a variety of methods, including:

  • Medically-supervised detox: This is usually done in a hospital or rehabilitation center. A team of medical professionals will help you through the detox process and monitor your progress.
  • Detox at home: This is an option for people who are not addicted to meth and do not need medically-supervised detox. If you choose to detox at home, it's important to have a support system in place, such as family or friends, to help you through the process.

After detox, you'll need to go through a treatment program to help you recover from your addiction. Treatment programs typically last 30 days but can be longer or shorter depending on your individual needs. Treatment typically includes:

  • Counseling: This can be done in individual or group settings. Counseling can help you understand your addiction and learn how to cope with triggers and cravings.
  • Behavioral therapy: This type of therapy can help you change the way you think about drugs and learn new skills to manage your addiction.
  • Support groups: These groups provide a safe space for you to share your experiences and connect with others who are going through similar struggles.
  • Aftercare: After you complete a treatment program, you'll need to have an aftercare plan in place to help you stay on track. This may include regular meetings with a counselor or therapist, participation in a support group, and/or taking medication to help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Other Drug Rehabilitation Resources

If you or someone you know is struggling with pseudoephedrine abuse, there are a number of resources available to help. Here are a few organizations that can provide information and support:

  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): NIDA is a government organization dedicated to understanding drug abuse and addiction and finding ways to prevent it. They offer a variety of resources, including publications, fact sheets, and information on treatment options.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): SAMHSA is a government agency that provides resources and support to people struggling with mental health and substance abuse problems. They offer a 24-hour helpline that can help you find treatment and support in your area.

If you're not sure where to start, talking to your doctor is a good first step. They can help you assess your situation and find the resources you need to get on the road to recovery.

Take the First Step with Countrywide Testing

Concerned that a loved one may be struggling with pseudoephedrine or methamphetamine abuse? Countrywide Testing can help. Our tests provide confirmation so you can get them the support they need.

Countrywide Testing is an online retailer providing you with easy access to drug tests and pharmacogenetic testing. We offer an array of products for discreet, accurate testing at home. Want more information on how Countrywide can support a journey toward full rehabilitation from phenobarbital abuse? Just contact our team today.