Addictions: Ephedrine

Addictions: Ephedrine
Dr. Phil speaks delivers a wake up call to guests with very dangerous addictions.
Laura started taking ephedrine in college to keep her awake through her classes. It helped her lose weight, which also got her attention from men. Although the bottle said to not take more than four pills in a 24-hour period, she was taking 25 pills a day. "I've been addicted to ephedrine for 11 years and I'm killing myself because of it," says Laura, who gets her drug from gas stations. Laura says ephedrine helps her with her job as a bartender by giving her energy during the late hours.

"I've had a ton of side effects," admits Laura. "I've been in the hospital for heart palpitations, thinking I was having a heart attack." She's even had to have a blood transfusion. "My friends and family think I've stopped because I've lied," says Laura, getting emotional. "They just don't get it. They know it's killing me, but they just think it's a decision. And I thought it would be easy too, but obviously, after 11 years, it's not."

Laura knows her addiction is killing her, so why can't she kick the habit and save her life once and for all?

Dr. Phil reads from the e-mail that Laura sent him: "'I'm an addict. I saw the baseball player die last year and even that didn't affect me. I feel that I could never live without it. I've tried being off of it for others, for short stems, but always go back to it. I like losing the weight, I like the attention I get. Because of the ephedrine, I drink more alcohol daily to slow down the effects of ephedrine. I tell my friends and family that I don't take it any longer and if I do it's only when I'm really tired from work.' And you've been running that scam for 11 years. And you say, 'I figure if it isn't illegal right now, then it must be OK to take.'"

"Do you know how drugs go from being legal to illegal?" he asks. "People die. People get sick. People develop cancer. You're having the heart palpitations, you're having the decreasing absorption of iron, you've been anemic. You're actually one of those people for whom it's changing you chemically. You are a walking side effect."

Laura says one of her fears when she goes off the drug is that she will gain weight. "I fear not being perfect," she says.

"You won't be perfect," Dr. Phil tells her. "And I hate to tell you, but you ain't perfect now. You aren't even close." He explains that the drug has changed her brain functioning and she cannot trust her own thinking. "What you have to do is say, 'I need to reach out to those that I know love me and I know care about me and maybe for a period of time I need to substitute their thinking for my own. I
can't trust myself because I'm a slave to this drug.' So you need to trust somebody else in your life to tell you what you need to do."

Dr. Phil asks Laura's father, Charles, who is sitting in the audience, if he understands that she can't do it on her own. "She has been on it for 11 years. She is addicted to it psychologically and physiologically.

So coming off of it is tantamount to a severe depression," explains Dr. Phil.

Laura's mother, Elizabeth, says it breaks her heart. "She had so much and is such a wonderful person, and if she keeps doing this, I know she's going to die," she says.

Dr. Phil tells Laura that she has to rely on the people in her life who love her. He leans in to make it clear to Laura: "You have to go get inpatient care. You have to check yourself in to a drug rehabilitation center for at least a month. And you need to go in there with a willing spirit and you need to stay there."

He tells her he doesn't know what her life will be like when she gets off the drugs. "You don't have the things that you want in your life, and when you get off drugs, you won't have them then either. But what you will have is all of your faculties, all your skills, all of your abilities to put your life together the way you want it. I'm not telling you get off drugs and your life will be wonderful. I'm saying get off drugs and you will have a chance for your life to be wonderful. But you don't have a chance now. You are dying as you sit there before me today," says Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil tells her parents that they need to get her into a drug rehabilitation program immediately. "You have no idea. This could cash her in tomorrow," he says. "She needs medical care, she needs psychological care. At 11 years, this is a highly complex disease. It is resistant to change and it's subject to relapse. This is a tough, tough problem," he warns them. He asks Laura if she is willing to go into treatment today.

Laura pauses. "I work and have to pay my bills ..."

"No you don't. No you don't," says Dr. Phil. "What you have to do is fight for your life. I don't care if they come and haul all your stuff away ... I don't give a damn about your business or your bills, compared to your life." Dr. Phil reminds her that she has support. "We're reaching out, you need to grab hold. Will you do this?" he asks her.

"Yes," says Laura.

After the show, Dr. Phil meets with Laura and her family and recommends a drug treatment facility for Laura.

As of January 2004, the Bush administration has announced it is banning the sale of ephedra (ephedrine) and urged consumers to immediately stop using the herbal supplement that has been linked to numerous deaths and other harmful health effects.