Friday, October 2, 2009

The Law Gone Awry - Ephedrine as an illegal drug*

I just saw a news story about an elderly woman who was arrested in Indianapolis for buying too much cold medicine containing the ingredient ephedrine. She bought Mucinex-D when she and her husband came down with a cold. Then 3-4 days later, she bought a cold relief medicine for her daughter that did not live at home. She was then arrested a day or so later. The prosecutor said that "ignorance of the law is no excuse". Who would have thought that just buying 2 boxes of cold related pills would get you arrested in Indiana.

I understand that ephedrine is an ingredient in the illegal drug "meth" (Methamphetamine), and there have been some overdoses by football players taking too much on a sweltering hot day, but the law seems to have gone a bit overboard with it's no tolerance on ephedrine. The Chinese have been using ephedrine for 3000 years for respiratory relief for such ailments as asthma. As a matter of fact, here is a short history lesson of ephedrine taken from

  • About 3,000 B.C. ephedrine was first used medicinally by the Chinese for respiratory relief through Ephedra (Reodica, 2005).
  • About 80 A.D. a Greek physician first documented the use of Ephedra (Reodica, 2005)
  • 1887 Ephedrine was isolated for the first time from Ma-Huang (Reodica, 2005)
  • 1930's Ephedrine's medicinal effects were discovered by Western Medicine (Reodica, 2005).
  • 1954 Ephedrine was first available as an oral therapy for asthma (Bernardi, 2004).
  • 1990's Ephedrine is promoted as weight loss supplement in Ma-Huang (Reodica, 2005).
  • Mid-1990's FDA debates on the safety of ephedrine in herbal supplements and as a drug available OTC (Evidence of Safety and Effectiveness of Ephedra, 2003).
  • 1994 Sales of Ephedrine now have to be recorded and kept for four years in regards to drug trafficking (Bernardi, 2004).
  • 1999 FDA published a notice under the Controlled Substances Act proposing that ephedrine be classified as a Schedule IV compound according to its CNS effects, its dependence and abuse potential, and its therapeutic usefulness (Bernardi, 2004).
  • 2001 National Football League bans Ephedra use after a number of deaths of young adults as a result of ephedrine-containing products (Reodica, 2005).
  • 2002 Canadian government issues a warning against the use of Ephedra (Dangerous diet supplement still available, 2002).
  • 2004 Dietary supplements containing Ephedra banned because of health concerns and adverse side effects (Ephedra Ban, 2004).

I suffer from a mild form of asthma and have been taking ephedrine pills for 20 years as a remedy for an asthma attack. It works much longer than primatene mist, and costs (or at least used to) way less. It is easier to carry, and is not subject to temperature extremes. Dosage of ephedrine pills can be adjusted by symptoms dictated.

My point is that people just need to use their common sense. But in the era of Obama bailout, I guess we can not be trusted to look out for ourselves. If 2 boxes of cold pills in one week is illegal, how much meth could a druggy make in one week with 2 boxes? And if we have to send the cops to the elderly lady's house, is it mandatory we arrest her "because of the law"? Can't we just make a note of it? Wait, let's stake out grandma's house and have a big sting operation!

My second point is according from the CDC, over 440,000 deaths a year are directly attributed to tobacco. But I could go and buy 10 cartons of Marlboro if I wanted.
Crap, if that's not enough, according to, each year, use of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs accounts for an estimated 7,600 deaths and 76,000 hospitalizations in the United States." (NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen.) But I can go buy a case of aspirin.

I am glad I have the US government looking out for me. That lady could be my neighbor...

*disclaimer - not responsible for some dumb@$$ overdosing on ephedrine because of this blog.


Anonymous said...


fighting4commonsense said...

How pathetic, but what I have come to expect from a country that embraces prohibition of marijuana. Non-addictive, non-toxic, non-poisonous, and once the 2nd most prescribed drug in the US...OK folks, who knows WHY it's illegal? If you don't, please educate yourself by reading "The Emperor Wears No Clothes" by Jack Herer, free online at his website. You will be outraged.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why you are referencing Obama when these laws have been in effect for a few years in most states.

Anonymous said...

Did the secret service arrest her? Why blame Obama? Blame the Indiana legislature and/or the local sheriff that "you the people" elected. Yeah, it makes NO SENSE, but blaming the federal government for state enforced issues is like blaming Soy milk for peanut allergies...

Anonymous said...

Controls on Ephedrine began in 1994. And this is Obama's fault? Wow, I thought he was just elected President within the past year! Yes, this arrest is absurd and offensive. But it is the far-right conservatives who want to legislate what citizens can do with their own bodies.