Over-the-Counter Speed


Six years ago, my husband, John, started a new job as a robot welder in a local manufacturing plant.  This new position would require him to work on third shift, a shift he was not accustomed to. For months he tried to stay up all night and sleep during the day.  He never seemed to get enough rest and signs of fatigue became more apparent.  Not knowing what else to do, he turned to his co-workers for advice.  After all, several of them had been working this shift for years.  It was at that time my husband was introduced to Mini Thins, what I refer to as an over-the-counter speed. 

Shelly Fite, author of an Internet article entitled Over-the-Counter Drugs: A New Low in Highs, describes Mini Thins as “a medicine marketed under a particularly flashy label for the relief of asthma symptoms” (Fite). 

Additional information obtained from the Ephedrine Legal Advice website, revealed that Mini Thins contain the ingredient ephedrine, a substance derived from the plant Ephedra.  “Ephedra is a shrub-like plant that is found in the desert regions in Central Asia and other parts of the world.  Its main active ingredient is the alkaloids ephedrine and poeudoephedrine.”  “Ephedrine alkaloids are amphetamine-like compounds used in the over-the-counter and prescription drugs with potentially lethal stimulant effects on the central nervous system and heart” (Ephedrine Legal Advice).

Not aware of its dangers and feeling he had nothing to lose, my husband began to use the over-the-counter drug, without my knowledge.  They were cheap, easy to obtain, gave him energy and helped him to stay awake and alert through the night.  He was receiving all the so-called benefits these pills claim to help people attain.  Research acquired from CNN.com, confirmed that these pills enhance performance and endurance, help people exercise longer, feel more alert and dampens appetite (CNN).  According to Paul Rubin, journalist from Phoenix New Times Online, these pills are also known as “trucker’s speed” and are widely used by truck drivers to stay awake for long periods of time (Rubin).

Two years had passed before I began to notice my husband behaving in a manner totally against his character.  He was lying about money and how it was spent.  His mood swings increased immensely going from happy to a violent wage in seconds.  He was withdrawing from his whole family and he seemed depressed all the time.  He would stay awake for two or more days in a row and then sleep all weekend, only getting up to use the restroom.  I didn’t know it at the time, but over the past two years, he had increased his usage from four pills a day to fifty.  He was addicted to Mini Thins.

“Addicted to Mini Thins,” my husband thought, “No Way!” Mini Thins appeared to be harmless; after all, he could purchase them over-the-counter at convenient stores and gas stations.  Nevertheless, authors Robert Peterson and Ray Hodgson state that:

Any drug which produces an elevated mood and enables its user to feel more complete, more energetic, more capable of sustained effort is a natural candidate for abuse.” The big danger in this pattern is that the user will come to feel an increasing need to take the drug in order to maintain the good feeling or to avoid the “let-down” when the drug is stopped.  Because tolerance to the mood-elevating and appetite-suppressing effects of the drug develops, it often requires somewhat larger doses to maintain the effect the user obtained originally with small doses.  In some cases, the sense of enhanced capacity produced by the drug comes to be viewed as essential (Petersen 100).

“No one sets out to become addicted.  People use drugs to feel better, different or happier," say the authorities.  But for some, as in my husband’s case, the use did lead to addiction (Wright).

In addition to the psychological effects my husband incurred, his addiction also caused him to experience medical problems.  He had developed kidney stones and had lost approximately twenty pounds.  He found himself having a rapid or irregular heartbeat and he had a hard time keeping his blood pressure down.  These were all adverse reactions from the use of Mini Thins. 

A study processed by the University of California San Francisco assessed 140 reports of adverse side effects from ephedrine-containing supplements.  Of the 140 reports the FDA received, the researchers found that under a third (31%) or 43 of the people “definitely” or “probably” suffered an adverse effect from ephedrine.  Of the 43 subjects, three died, seven suffered permanent injury and four required on-going medical treatment (CNN, Ephedra Supplements).

As time passed, the situation worsened and my husband’s problem became more apparent.  I had suspected he was on some type of drugs but never had any hard evidence to prove it.  When I would question him, he would always deny everything.  He had been telling himself for six years that he was not addicted and that he could stop at any time.  The situation progressively got worse.  Feeling like he had no way out but to tell the truth, he confessed to using Mini Thins.  At this point, he was taking 100 pills a day.  I was amazed that he was still alive.

I began researching Mini Thins so that I could understand what we were dealing with.  The facts were astonishing. This problem was greater than I ever imagined.  In an article written by Danaca Schneider, from Iowa State Daily’s web site, she confirmed that Ephedrine-containing products, like Mini Thins, are one of the hottest over-the-counter stimulants used today (Schneider). CNN reports that:  “According to industry statistics, Ephedrine-containing supplements are popular products in the United States; they are used by about 12 million people, with some three billion servings sold last year” (CNN, Ephedra Supplements).

Adults as well as teenagers abuse the use of Mini Thins.  In the article “Over-the-Counter Drugs: A New Low in Highs,” Mrs. Fite points out:

These drugs are widespread among our high school and college campuses.  Students’ use of cocaine and marijuana has shifted recently to asthma medicines and cough remedies.  Sarah, a Mosley High School senior states, “You can’t go anywhere anymore where people aren’t eating (Mini Thins).  My friends eat them for breakfast, pop them through school, and then kill the bottle at night.  It’s like they don’t sleep anymore at all (Fite).

In a 1998 article published by Capital News Service, Representative Beverly Hammerstrom, of Michigan, agrees.  She states, “Ephedrine has become the latest in youth drug trends.”  She believes these drugs are alluring to teens because they’re relatively inexpensive, contain nutrients such as niacin and are easy to hide” (Shelton).

New York, Florida and Nebraska have banned the sale of some-ephedrine containing products and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has conducted hearings on this topic.  In 1997, the FDA reported more than 800 instances of “adverse reactions” related to ephedrine use and linked it to 17 deaths nationwide (Shelton).  In addition, the Texas Board of Health approved rules that would classify ephedrine as a dangerous drug and require a prescription for most ephedrine-containing products sold in Texas.  The board’s action followed reports of more than 1200 incidents of a wide range of adverse effects associated with the misuse and abuse of ephedrine in Texas (Texas State Board of Health).

Dr. Donald Gordon, chairman of the department of emergency medical technology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, in a 1999 interview with Jim Vertuno of Reporter News, declared that, “Ephedrine is addictive, it’s abusive, and it’s dangerous.”  He believes that this stimulant should be regulated like a prescription drug, not just marketed with warning labels and recommended dosage limits (Vertuno). 

After researching Mini Thins, I totally agree with Dr. Gordon that ephedrine-containing drugs should be regulated.  It’s not enough to put warning labels on this type of product.  My husband was old enough to read the information printed on the side of the bottle but he chose to ignore the warnings. He was a good guy looking for something to help him make it through the night.  He never dreamed he would become addicted.  What started out as small problem ended up becoming a humongous one.  What he thought he could control, ended up controlling him. 

As for my husband, he entered a drug rehab program through Adanta.  He has been drug free for eight long and hard months.  He still gets embarrassed at the thought of getting hooked on an over-the-counter drug.    It almost cost him his family and his life. 

I would like to thank my husband John for sharing his story and for all of his hard work and effort in beating this addiction. 



Works Cited

CNN.com. “ Ephedra Supplements Can Be Dangerous.” CNN. 06 November 2000. Retrieved 15 November 2001 <http://www.cnn.com/2000/HEALTH/alternative/11/06/ephedra.dangers/index.html>.

Ephedrine Legal Advice. “What is Epherdrine?Ephedrine Legal Advice. 2001. Retrieved 10 November 2001 <http://www.ephedrine-ephedra.com>.

Fite, Shelly. “Over-the-Counter Drugs: A New Low in Highs.” News Herald Education. 1997. Retrieved 10 November 2001 <http://www.newshearld.com/EDUCATION/XFITE.HTM>.

 J.Petersen & R. Hodgson. Addictions: Issues and Answers. New York: Harper & Row, 1980.

Rubin, Paul. “Suspects of Convenience.” Phoenix New Times Online. 28 May 1998. Retrieved 10 November 2001 <http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/issues/1998-05-28/feature2.html>.

Scheider, Danaca. “Drug Provides New High for Students.” Iowa State Daily. 16 October 1996. Retrieved 10 November 2001 <http://www.daily.iastate.edu/volumes/Fall96/Oct-16-1996/top5.html>.

Shelton, Shannon. “Ban Sought on Energy Drug Misused by Teens.” Capital News Service. 10 April 1998. Retrieved 15 November 2001 <http://www2.cns.jrn.msu.edu/articles/ss98/041098/drug.html>.

Texas State Board of Health. “State Board of Health Acts to Restrict Sale of Ephedrine Products.” Texas State Board of Health. May 1998. Retrieved 10 November 2001 <http://www.tdh.state.tx.us/news/b-news205.htm>.

Vertuno, Jim. “Doctors Say Ephedrine Should Be Regulated Like Drug.” Reporter News. 26 February 1999. Retrieved 10 November 2001

 Williams, Tommie. 10 Nov. 2001.

Wright, B., and D. G. Wright. Dare to Confront. 1st ed. n.p.: MasterMedia Publishing Corporation, 1990.


By Dora Williams

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