What Is Propylhexedrine, and How Does Abuse Affect the Body?

Propylhexedrine is a synthetic stimulant that is similar to methamphetamine.

In fact, the two drugs are nearly identical on a chemical level, with only a salicylic cyclohexyl group and an aromatic phenyl group separating them. However, as similar as the two substances are, they are worlds apart in terms of legal and cultural status. While methamphetamine is a Schedule II controlled substance – and therefore banned from recreational use – propylhexedrine is available over the counter to treat children as young as 6 years old.

Medical Uses for Propylhexedrine

Propylhexedrine has two major uses in the medical community. The first, less common, use is as an appetite suppressant and weight loss supplement, which is marketed in Europe under the name Obesin. More commonly, it is an effective nasal decongestant that is often used to treat allergies, hay fever, the flu and the common cold. This treatment takes the form of a nasal inhaler, which adults and children over 6 years old can spray into their nostrils. The inhaler releases a very small amount of propylhexedrine (0.4-0.5 milligrams), which helps to constrict the blood vessels in the nose, providing relief from congestion.

Although propylhexedrine is a useful medication, there are some side effects that come along with prolonged use. The drug manufacturer, B.F. Ascher, directs people to cease use of propylhexedrine after three days, as overexposure can actually irritate the mucus membrane and make decongestion worse. This warning speaks volumes about the danger of misusing propylhexedrine; if 0.5 milligrams can cause damage after only three days, ingesting or injecting the drug must surely do harm to the body.

Propylhexedrine Abuse

According to Pharmacotherapy, propylhexedrine is nicknamed “stovetop speed” – a likely reference to its amphetamine-like high. An individual can procure the drug at a local store (usually through a product called the Benzedrex inhaler), then take it apart to access the propylhexedrine, which is absorbed in a cotton swab inside.

Once they’ve gained access to the propylhexedrine, a person can experience a stimulating high through one of three ways. Some people swallow the cotton whole; however, this method tends to be unpopular, as the cotton is also soaked in lavender and menthol, which makes it taste unpleasant. Others soak the cotton in lemon juice for upwards of 24 hours.

This imbues the juice with the drug, which the individual can either drink or inject.

The Dangers of Drug Use

As the National Capital Poison Center is careful to point out on their website, a propylhexedrine high always precedes a bad “crash.” To look at this in more detail, we should examine the short-term and long-term side effects of using propylhexedrine. The initial high excites the body and brain, which leads to side effects like:

  • Stimulation
  • Focus enhancement
  • Thought acceleration
  • Increased libido
  • Appetite suppression
  • Feelings of euphoria

These effects are similar to the high one might experience on other stimulants like meth or cocaine.

And, just like those dangerous drugs, propylhexedrine use then brings some dangerous – and potentially deadly – side effects.

Some examples include:

  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Temporary erectile dysfunction
  • Anxiety, depression, and irritability
  • Cognitive fatigue

Of course, there are other side effects that aren’t related directly to the drug. Many people who use propylhexedrine try to enhance their experience by mixing the stimulant with other drugs, like the plant kratom. As the journal Practical Pain Management states, mixing these drugs can lead to dangerous levels of toxicity in the body.

Individuals who take propylhexedrine intravenously also run the risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis from sharing needles with other users. Finally, overdose is another serious side effect of excess or long-term propylhexedrine abuse. In fact, an article in U.S. Pharmacist has cited two of the more common causes of death in propylhexedrine-related overdoses: brainstem dysfunction and cardiac arrest.

Getting Treatment

woman in treatment from propylhexedrine abuse walks along the sandy beach during sunsetAt this time, propylhexedrine treatment is not widely available because the drug is not considered highly addictive. But if you consider the drug’s close chemical structure to methamphetamine, as well as the extreme measures people go through to get high, it is quite clear that propylhexedrine could be considered a very addictive substance.

If you, or someone you know, are struggling with propylhexedrine abuse, you can seek help from an addiction specialist or treatment facility. Most of the physical damage propylhexedrine does is reversible once a person ceases using the drug. Comprehensive treatment that includes individual therapy, group therapy, 12-Step programs, and other treatment methods can make the recovery journey a little easier. 

Issues Affecting California

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