The use of nutritional supplements has been a concern, particularly in athletics. Athletes are at some stage in their career involved in the consumption of the supplements with the aim of enhancing their performance (Insel & Insel, 2013). The ergogenic aids are the substances or factors that are used as the supplement to increase the ability to work and improve production (Porcari, Bryant, & Comana, 2015). The improvement can occur as a result of the increased strength, speed, and endurance. Apart from the nutrition, other factors enhancing performance include equipment, pharmacological agents, and even psychological aids. However, the focus of this discussion is on Ephedrine, which is a nutritional supplement.
Ephedrine has been in use for many centuries in China as a treatment for a cough and bronchitis. In the contemporary world, it is found in many dietary supplements because of its known effectiveness in promoting weight and body fat reduction. The supplement is said to have a direct influence on the central nervous system, which is the basis for the improved performance. Despite the perceived performance, the administration of the drug is mostly controversial considering that there is inadequate statistical evidence of how the component works on the human body (Angell et al., 2012). Additionally, there are confirmed side effects, which are considered critical and adequate to warrant the warning for its consumption. My interest in the research is to gather information on how Ephedrine works, whether it enhances performance, the side effects, and determination of whether it has been banned.
The Literature Review
Ephedrine is a sympathomimetic from the same family as albuterol sulfate. It is an alpha and beta-adrenergic agonist, upon which it promotes the release of norepinephrine, which is similar to adrenaline. When administered, Ephedrine stimulates the central nervous system, resulting in increased body temperature and subsequently increase metabolic rate. The subsequent action involves the freeing of more fatty acids upon the enhancement of triglyceride breakdown leading into body fat loss. In other words, the metabolic rate is boosted, with an energy level raised from the burned fat.
Ephedrine is also associated with two other functions as a suppressant and as a bronchodilator. The supplement is a potent appetite suppressant on earth. Its effectiveness in decreasing gastric emptying makes it an appropriate ingredient in counter diet pills. As a bronchodilator, it is used in easing restriction in the air passageways, which improve breathing (Angell et al., 2012). In other words, Ephedrine as an ergogenic aid influences performance in three folds, including enhanced metabolism, reduced the urge for food and enhanced breathing.
The question of whether Ephedrine or any other ergogenic aid improves performance is essential. The body of knowledge on this matter has not yet provided clear evidence into this effect. The physiological process in which energy production is increased and breathing enhanced is not a direct indication of the fact that the performance of the individual improves. It is a challenge to measure the effect of the supplement based on many other factors likely to influence performance (Insel & Insel, 2013). For instance, an athlete can have his or her performance enhanced as a result of training and or positive psychological preparedness. Again, since component can act differently on different parties, the results to where a subject uses the supplement and compete with a control (non-treated competitor) may not be used in making an authoritative conclusion. In the same perspective, measuring performance under normal body conditions and treating the subject weeks later to measure performance may not be a reliable study approach since the performance of the individuals can be enhanced through training and gained experience (Angell et al., 2012). Therefore, it becomes difficult to separate the supplement that improve performance and the one associated with other factors. Equally important, it is not easy to administer ergogenic aid without their knowledge. Hence, testing the effectiveness of the supplement through a blind study is not an easy task. In other words, it is not scientifically proven that ergogenic aids assist in enhancing performance despite the fact that they have demonstrated physiological effects.
The Use by Population
The medical uses of Ephedrine can be associated with every category of the population, including the young, elderly, male, and female. With its ability to open the air passageways, the aspect makes it an effective ingredient in countering colds, allergies, and asthma (Porcari, Bryant, & Comana, 2015). The pharmaceutical products containing the component are therefore used for the purpose. Another use is that it is utilized in addressing nutritional problems, particularly excessive appetite, and obesity. The supplement reduces the urge for food is reduced significantly and hence individuals with the desire to overeat find it a significant solution. The ability to increase the breakdown of fat assists obese individual to lose weight. The breakdown of fat and reduced food intake is an immensely valuable remedy to the issues of obesity. Therefore, it is clear that apart from enhancing performance at work or in sports, the supplement has also other medical applications. Individuals affected by the conditions are liable to use Ephedrine as a treatment irrespective of whether they are male, female, old, or young. However, the nutritional supplement should be consumed for medical purpose based on prescription.
Adverse Side Effect
According to Kim (2003), Ephedrine is linked to ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. Its administration with other stimulants such as caffeine leads to ephedrine to cardiac arrhythmia and ventricular tachycardia. The implication could be associated with the effect of the supplement on central nervous system. Shekelle et al. (2003) highlight cases to demonstrate the likely effect of Ephedrine, including deaths, myocardial infarctions, and cerebrovascular accidents. Again, these are a proof of the side effect on the administration of Ephedrine. In fact, in a number of collapses-death cases, Ephedrine has been found in the blood of the deceased.
Indeed, another serious side effect of the administration of the supplement is the increase in blood pressure. Ephedrine increases alertness and anxiety, as well as heart rate, which are key causes of high blood pressure (Angell et al., 2012). For the individuals diagnosed with hypertension, the drug can lead to severe blood pressure and may potentially cause death.
Malnutrition is another side effect of the administration of the supplement. The reduced desire to eat implies that an individual may stay for a long time without consuming food. As a result, the body lacks the nutrients for energy, bodybuilding, and immunity; hence, the individuals are put at risk of suffering from diseases and conditions. The functionality of individuals is affected and hence their daily lives, and social duties are likely to be compromised.
Higher doses of Ephedrine may lead to insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness. As discussed, the supplement keeps the individual alert, particularly after the intake. At the highest alert level, the individual is likely to develop anxiety over things affecting his/her life. As such, the anxiety can lead to stress and hence one can stay awake for a long time (Angell et al., 2012). In other cases, since Ephedrine leads to increased breakdown of fat to give energy, an individual may become restless. In fact, the increased energy production leads to increased body temperatures. Headaches can be experienced as a result of the high blood pressure and blood sugar level may be altered. The aches, in this case, act as the symptom to the side effects of Ephedrine.
Based on the analysis, it is clear that individuals suffering from hypertension, diabetes, and cardiac disorders are not supposed to use the supplement. The opening of passageways and increased anxiety can advance the complication as the speed and movement of blood could be increased (Insel & Insel, 2013). In this case, the increased anxiety and heart rate could worsen the condition. Individuals who have diabetes are also discouraged from using the drug. Ephedrine is likely to interfere with the blood sugar control in various ways. First, it leads to an excessive breakdown of fat into glucose and energy and hence when the blood sugar is high the supplement increases it even further. Secondly, the supplement reduces the desire to eat due to gastric constipation, which reduces food intake even when more blood sugar is needed. Furthermore, it would be advisable for expectant women to avoid the administration of Ephedrine as a supplement or in a combination form. In fact, the primary perception against the drug is that in their state, the pregnant women are likely to experience episodes of high blood pressure. Therefore, using Ephedrine would imply that the pressure would be severe and potentially lead to miscarriage.
Three ethical concerns arise from the production, distribution, research, and consumption of Ephedrine. It is clear that the drug has serious side effects to the consumers; however, many of the producers do not issue the warning to the customers. It is ethical and legally required to inform the consumers of the side effects to ensure that they make informed decisions on the consumption. In addition, it is imperative to note that Ephedrine is distributed through the black market due to restrictions in the regular market. The manufacturers and distributors strive to maximize revenue and profits earned through enhanced turnover. It is unethical to operate in the black market, particularly for products such as Ephedrine whose adverse effects, which are associated with deaths (Porcari, Bryant, & Comana, 2015). The other ethical concern regards the consumption to gain an advantage over the competitors in the gaming and sporting. In sports, fair play is required where the participants get equal chances of winning depending on their capabilities. Therefore, it is an ethical concern about whether the intake of the stimulant is acceptable in sports. As such, an ethical concern also arises when it comes to research on the effect and implication of the drug on the human body. The determination of how the supplement works on the human body is clear that individuals have to be introduced. Irrespective of whether there is consent to be the subjects, it is an ethical concern about whether subjecting them to the risk is acceptable.
As discussed, Ephedrine is a controversial nutritional supplement, whose production, distribution, and consumption has attracted the attention of many stakeholders and control agencies. In fact, based on the implication of the supplement, which could be fatal to the consumers, the drug has been banned in the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned Ephedrine in 2004 and maintained precise controls in 2006. In this case, the control was aimed at restricting the availability of the substance on the market. The goal of the ban and control is to ensure that the drug is only available for medication and as directed by a medical doctor. However, despite the efforts, it gets to the market through the illegal production and distribution. Furthermore, World Anti-Doping Agency has come up with a list of drugs and supplements banned for use among the sporting individuals where Ephedrine is one of the substances in the list. The objective of the prohibition is to encourage fair and free competition (Ryan, 2012). In other words, athletes and other sportspersons are not allowed to enhance their performance using the drug. In essence, another objective of WADA is to protect the sportsmen and women from the negative implications of the substances.
From the discussion, it is clear that ergogenic aids have been in use for centuries and might continue to be in use in the future. Of importance is that through modern research, the application and the effect of the use of most of the supplements have been known. Ephedrine is one of the substances used in enhancing the work and performance of an individual’s activity. The substance can also be used as the remedy for obesity, breathing problems, and overheating, as well as by individuals in all demographics, including male, female, old, and young. However, there are various side effects connected to the use of this supplement, including high blood pressure, malnutrition, heart complications, as well as the negative effect on blood sugar control. As such, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have banned the drug in the United States. WADA has also banned the supplement as a step towards enhancing fair and free competition while protecting athletes from the side effects. Future research is required to assist in qualifying the effect of the food supplement on performance to clear the current doubts on whether it works. Furthermore, research is required to establish its effectiveness/implications on various groups, particularly the old and young children.