What is Pseudoephedrine? - Dosage & Side Effects

Instructor: Laura Gray

Laura has taught at the secondary and tertiary levels for 20+ years and has a Ph.D. in Instructional Design for Online Learning.

This lesson will explain what pseudoephedrine is, how it should be dosed, and its potential side effects. In addition, pseudoephedrine's role in the manufacturing of methamphetamine will be discussed.


Yes, it's a long word. The word is pseudoephedrine, and, in short, it is a stimulant that helps to constrict blood vessels, especially in the nose. This is why when someone takes a medication that contains pseudoephedrine, their stuffy nose symptoms often go away. Pseudoephedrine can be found in many over-the-counter and prescription drugs such as Entex and Sudafed. Sudafed is probably the most well-known over-the-counter drug that contains pseudoephedrine. However, as with any drug, there are side effects, and some of these side effects have led to people using pseudoephedrine to make illicit drugs.

In this lesson, we will discuss the proper dosage of pseudoephedrine for children and adults and examine the better-known side effects of the drug. In addition, we will discuss what has happened in the last several years to turn pseudoephedrine into an ingredient in the manufacturing of methamphetamine, a highly addictive and illegal drug.

A pseudoephedrine tablet

How Much to Take?

So, how do you know how much pseudoephedrine to take to help get rid of that nasty cold? If you are purchasing, let's say, a bottle of Sudafed, you will probably have to 1) be of legal age, 2) show a state-issued identification card at the time of purchase, and 3) sign for it. This is so the pharmacy can keep a record of everyone who purchases medicines containing pseudoephedrine. Sadly, over the last couple of decades, the same pseudoephedrine that will clear up your stuffy nose has become one of the prime ingredients in methamphetamine, which is illegal in all 50 states. Therefore, you may not be able to buy that bottle of Sudafed just anywhere. When you do, you can bet that someone is keeping a record of it.

But let's say you meet all the criteria for buying it and you really do have a cold that you need to get rid of. So you buy a bottle. How much should you take? If you bought the old Sudafed that is released all at once into the body, 30 to 60 milligrams every 4 to 6 hours should clear up that stuffy nose in no time. On the other hand, if you bought the extended-release type, which can take several hours to get into the body, 120 milligrams every 12 hours will sustain you. And you should be very careful about giving it to children. Kids under the age of two shouldn't take Sudafed at all, while those over the age of two need anywhere from one-fourth to one-half of the adult dose. This is because pseudoephedrine can have some nasty side effects. Read on...

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