Sudafed is the brand name for pseudoephedrine, which is a decongestant (sympathomimetic) used to treat stuffy noses and sinuses by narrowing the blood vessels to decrease swelling and congestion. Sudafed may also be used to treat other common cold or flu symptoms, as well as sinus pain, hay fever, allergies, and bronchitis. As an over-the-counter (OTC) medication, Sudafed can be purchased and used without a prescription. But while it may be an effective OTC medication for flu symptoms and allergies, is Sudafed addictive? Today, our Clearbrook rehab in Massachusetts is looking into this question and the possible signs of pseudoephedrine abuse.
Can You Get High On Sudafed?
Yes, Sudafed can produce a stimulating and energetic high. Oftentimes, it’s promoted as a stimulant, which is why it’s a common ingredient in methamphetamine and also why people may experiment with it.
Pseudoephedrine is also a common ingredient in methamphetamine, which is why people can only purchase a certain amount of it at a time. Specifically, according to the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, one person can only purchase enough Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) for 30 days.
The conversion of pseudoephedrine into methamphetamine is the most common way for people to get high on Sudafed. Methamphetamine itself is a powerful and addictive stimulant that produces an immediate, euphoric high, marked by side effects like a sense of well-being, increased confidence, alertness, and energy.
Meth can be inhaled or smoked, swallowed in pill form, injected, or crushed into powder to be snorted. The last of these administrations often encourages the act of snorting Sudafed in people who use it to get high.
Is Pseudoephedrine Addictive?
While the purchase of pseudoephedrine was originally restricted because it was often used to make methamphetamine, it also has a potential for abuse and addiction on its own. Sudafed is addictive, and long-term pseudoephedrine misuse increases an individual’s risk of both physical and psychological dependence.
Some people use Sudafed to increase alertness and energy. It’s one of the many medications that are available over-the-counter, meaning it can be used to self-medicate, increasing the individual’s risk of dependence and addiction.
Because it’s a stimulant, many people also believe that pseudoephedrine is performance-enhancing. As a result, athletes and students may also abuse it to increase their performance in sports, school, or work.
On the other hand, some individuals may engage in Sudafed abuse simply because they want to get high. Many people experiment with over-the-counter drugs because they believe they’re harmless or that they aren’t addictive. While being addicted to pseudoephedrine isn’t as severe as being addicted to methamphetamine, it can occur, and it is dangerous.
Sudafed Abuse Side Effects and Symptoms
Side Effects of Sudafed
Although research on the details of a Sudafed high is limited, because it acts as a stimulant, it’s safe to say that Sudafed produces a high by affecting dopamine levels in the brain, producing euphoria. Stimulants are also known for elevating heart rate, blood pressure, and energy, which may contribute to a high.
Some common side effects of Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) include:
- Increased energy
- Red eyes
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Paranoia and anxiety
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Muscle weakness
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- Tightness in the chest
Usually, depending on the person’s age, the maximum dose of Sudafed a person can take is 240 milligrams (mg), meaning the pseudoephedrine recreational dose is anything above 240 mg. In addition to using higher doses, people may also abuse Sudafed by using it in ways it wasn’t meant to be used, such as crushing pills and snorting them.
Signs of Sudafed Abuse
Pseudoephedrine abuse is most common among teens, young adults, and college students because it’s a cheap and accessible OTC medication. These age groups may use Sudafed as a performance-enhancing drug or simply to get high.
However, since access to pseudoephedrine is restricted, teens and young adults are now more likely to turn to other more easily accessible drugs of abuse, such as herbal drugs, OTC medications like DXM (dextromethorphan), or prescription drugs.
Someone who is misusing pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) may exhibit these signs:
- Frequent mood swings
- Red eyes
- Dilated pupils
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Isolating from friends and family
- Poor performance at school or work
- Sudden changes in appearance, hygiene, or social circles
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Mood swings
People who have developed pseudoephedrine dependence or addiction may also exhibit certain physical and behavioral changes when use is reduced or stopped, otherwise referred to as withdrawals. Sudafed withdrawal can be an uncomfortable experience that may encourage the person to continue using this drug to avoid them.
If you’ve become addicted to Sudafed and want to quit using it, our Massachusetts treatment center recommends a medically monitored detox. During a medically supervised detox at our facility, patients are under the 24-hour care of our team, during which they may be given medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms (as needed). This is a much safer and more pleasant alternative to attempting to quit pseudoephedrine addiction cold-turkey.
Get Help for Sudafed Abuse
Just because it’s an over-the-counter medication, doesn’t make pseudoephedrine abuse safe. Long-term misuse of any medication or drug can have long-term repercussions on an individual’s physical and mental health, as well as their relationships, career, and finances.
What’s more, because pseudoephedrine is a common ingredient in methamphetamine, abusing it long-term also increases your chances of experimenting with meth for a more powerful high. The longer you use drugs, the more of them you’ll need to feel just as good as that first time.
If you want freedom from drug addiction, you don’t have to do it on your own. Our inpatient drug rehab in Massachusetts offers treatment for all kinds of drugs, including medical detox and therapy, to help our patients overcome every hurdle that drug abuse throws their way.