Pseudoephedrine is a stimulant found in over-the-counter and prescription decongestants. It is sold primarily as a cold and sinus medication due to its ability to relieve nasal congestion and sinus pressure. Like other stimulants, pseudoephedrine may cause appetite loss in some people. Understanding the relationship between pseudoephedrine and weight loss allows consumers to use the drug correctly and minimize the risk of side effects.
Pseudoephedrine can be found in a number of over-the-counter cold medicines. It acts as a decongestant and is used to relieve symptoms of sinus congestion, hay fever, colds and other respiratory ailments. According to the National Institutes of Health, pseudoephedrine is sometimes used to prevent ear blockage in patients with ear pain caused by underwater diving or air travel.
Like its chemical relative ephedrine, pseudoephedrine can cause central nervous system stimulation and appetite suppression in some people. It works by narrowing blood vessels throughout the body and in the nasal passages, thereby relieving congestion.
In addition to vasoconstriction, pseudoephedrine also speeds heart rate and causes a slight rise in blood pressure. While not usually harmful when taken as directed, pseudoephedrine can be dangerous when consumed in higher doses like those typically needed to produce appetite suppression.
Abuse occurs when a person takes a drug in excess or for purposes other than its intended uses. While uncommon, abuse of pseudoephedrine has been reported. EMedTV states that people sometimes take pseudoephedrine in an attempt to curb appetite and lose weight. People who abuse pseudoephedrine to lose weight often take dangerously high doses, which can lead to complications like heart arrhythmia, palpitations and even heart attacks, according to EMedTV.
Despite sporadic cases of abuse, pseudoephedrine dose not carry a high risk for abuse or addiction when used as directed. Other possible reasons for abusing pseudoephedrine include enhancing athletic performance and increasing energy.
Even when taken as directed, pseudoephedrine can cause unwanted side effects in some people. According to Drug Information Online, headache, insomnia, nervousness and nausea are common side effects of pseudoephedrine preparations. In rare cases, the drug has been linked to chest pain and coronary artery spasm.
Because it raises blood pressure, pseudoephedrine should not be taken in large doses for prolonged periods of time. People with a history of high blood pressure or heart disease should ask a doctor before using the medication.
When used properly, pseudoephedrine can be a safe and effective symptom reliever for nasal congestion. Misusing the drug may result in life-threatening health effects, especially in people with certain health conditions. For this reason, pseudoephedrine should not be taken as a weight loss aid.