Ephedra was banned in the Netherlands from April 2004, as a result of the American ban on this product somewhat earlier. Now, more than a year thereafter, appears that this does not have led to real problems among the group of users. This was approved by research made by the IVO (an institute for academic research on lifestyle, addiction and related social developments).
Although the interviewed ephedra users are relatively experienced in using drugs, only 14% of 237 people that recently used ephedra changed to hard drugs, such as speed and XTC. These people mostly used ephedra when partying. Users that took ephedra for losing weight have stopped or changed to other weight-loss products that do not contain ephedra. At last there is a group that has hoard shortly before the ban and now uses this ‘stock’ sparingly.
It appeared that women are more frequent users of ephedra then men. This is due to the fact that they use it as weight-loss treatment (73%), where they ingest ephedra on a frequent basis. Men mostly use ephedra as a partydrug (55%) and so the use is more incidental. Furthermore it seems that ephedra is being used by men and women for multiple purposes, like sport (30%) and as a stimulant while working (20%).
The most important effects that have been reported are: enhanced mood and performance, reduced appetite and side-effects such as: nervousness, rapid heart-beat and sleeping problems. Side-effects are not the same as health complaints. 16% of the users reports health complaints resulting from ephedra use. These complaints include high blood pressure, palpitations and fatigue. About 10% also experienced control problems when using ephedra.
For smartshops, the ban in 2004 has led to a substantial descend of turnover. It is yet too early to figure out whether and in which form a black market will develop for this product. Suspected is that internet shops will play a role in this.