Access to ephedrine
The Durham-Humphrey Amendment to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 was passed in 1952. This amendment defined a pharmaceutical as a compound that required a physician’s prescription before it could be dispensed through a licensed pharmacy. Ephedrine was defined as an over-the-counter agent for the treatment of such conditions as nasal congestion. The CNS stimulatory effects of ephedrine,
especially when this compound was abused by long-distance truck drivers, or students attempting to “cram” for final examinations, were quietly ignored because these effects were achieved only when ephedrine was ingested in larger-than-recommended doses.
As your text has indicated, however, ephedrine is capable of producing dangerous, potentially life-threatening, side effects. It is also the core molecule that chemists use to manufacture illegal methamphetamine, although its chemical cousin pseudoephedrine is also used for this purpose on occasion. (Pseudoephedrine was originally developed in an attempt to retain the medical action of ephedrine, but to limit its abuse potential. This effort failed.) For a long time methamphetamine for illicit use was produced in small “mom and pop” laboratories for local consumption. With the increasing restrictions on ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, methamphetamine is now usually produced in “super-labs” outside of this country and then smuggled into the US. If the efforts to control methamphetamine production have failed, should the restrictions on access to ephedrine or pseudoephedrine be lifted? Why or why not?