Positive use of Ephedrine; Myth or Reality

August 8, 2018

(Makhdoom M. Shahab-ud- Din) Ephedrine, a naturally occurring chemical with the formula C10H15NO occurs as fine, white, odorless crystals or powder and darkens on exposure to light. It is commonly used as a medical supplement and stimulant. First isolated in 1885 Japan and now it is on the WHO’s list for most effective drugs in a healthcare emergency.

This drug is used for two major medical purposes; first is to reduce the shortness of breath and congestion of the nose. It performs its function by reducing the swelling of the blood vessels in the nasal cavity as well as widening the lung airways. The second purpose for this is to induce fat loss in a patient, by increasing the amount of fat available for fuel as well as by increasing heat expenditure. It has been implicated in increasing the metabolic rate by up to 5% in humans. Common side effects include blurred vision, dizziness, headache, hallucinations, nervousness etc.

One more effect that ephedrine has, and perhaps the most widely known, is invoking the feeling of pleasure. It achieves this by increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain of the consumer. Dopamine is a natural amine secreted by the brain that is known for inducing the feeling of motivation and reward which results in a mood-boosting effect.

This sensation in the consumer results in ephedrine being commonly used as a recreational drug. While ephedrine is not classified as a street drug, it does have some similar properties to amphetamine, a drug commonly used in street drugs such as speed, blue mollies, pick me ups and many more. Ephedrine drugs in the past have been classified as “Herbal ecstasy”. This drug has recently been under the highlights in the Pakistani news. A potential candidate for the national assembly seat 60 of Rawalpindi, and a prominent leader of the Pakistan Muslim League N; Hanif Abbasi was facing a trial as he was accused of misusing 500kg of the controlled chemical ephedrine, which he had purchased for his company, Gary Pharmaceutical, back in 2010, and selling this to local buyers who further used this as a “Party Drug”. A formal case against the politician was registered by the anti-narcotics force in 2012. The ANF in Pakistan had claimed that Abbasi’s company had acquired far more than the legal limit of Ephedrine and had smuggled the quota to a nearby country instead of using it in the local production of medicines.

After six years, the court gave its verdict saying that 363 kgs of the drug could be accounted for by the company but the remaining drug could not, thereby sentencing the former MNA Abbasi to life in prison. Other prominent politicians involved in this case were PPP’s Makhdoom Shahab and former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani’s son Ali Musa Gilani.

Drug Abuse in Pakistan is a serious issue that is usually swiped under the rug because of war on terror and political turmoil in the country being highlighted. In the capital city Islamabad, students have been abusing drugs at an alarming rate. Different cases are opened against students who are taking drugs in colleges even girls are no exception. According to sources, students are willing to spend a huge amount to purchase cocaine and other drugs. Injection of drugs are waving in the streets. A gram of some drugs is even sold for PKR 12,000 to PKR 18,000 depending upon the quality.

According to surveys by a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), there are about nine million drug addicts in Pakistan, of which the two million are within the age bracket of “15 to 25”and a vast majority of them are studying in schools, colleges and universities.

All educational institutes in the federal capital are declared “smoke free zones”, yet students have been increasingly getting into drug abuse. Most of students in the educational institutions have numbers of drug dealers on their mobile phones and a hit is usually just one phone call away. Cities have huge networks of drug providers and connections in the national parliament, such as that of Abbasi, act as a supporting pillar for these gangs to operate in their vicinities without fear of intervention.

Sadly, when asked of responsibility for this alarming case, the old age shift of responsibility and blame begin. Educational institutions claim this to be the responsibility of the parents, whereas parents claim that most of the university students spend time on the college campus, especially the hostilities. Drugs creep into a society silently and spread wide without being exposed but they can only be eradicated by shining a light at the dangers of the extent of drug abuse. Proactive steps must be taken to eradicate this issue that affects the youth, which are future of the nation.

Parents and teachers should work together against this scenario. Proper steps by the government in collaboration with the Anti-Narcotics Force and educational institutions should be taken. Hotlines should be available for emergencies such as overdose and mistreatment. Seminars should be held on regular basis where pamphlets and posters of the signs and symptoms of drug abuse should be distributed.

The writer is a broadcast journalist and a social media activist.