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Sympathomimetics – Effect, Application & Risks


Sympathomimetics are drugs that stimulate the sympathetic nervous system . The sympathetic nervous system is part of the autonomic nervous system and is involved in various bodily functions. Basically, the stimulation of this nerve puts the body in a performance-enhancing state. Physiologically, this is the case with stress , for example . Sympathomimetics are used, among other things, to treat colds , asthma and low blood pressuredeployed. Some sympathomimetics require a prescription, while other sympathomimetics are available without a prescription. Caution is advised when taking it. Even with non-prescription sympathomimetics, which are contained in nasal sprays , for example , undesirable side effects cannot be ruled out.

What are sympathomimetics?

Sympathomimetics are active ingredients that additionally activate the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is part of the autonomic nervous system. This part of the organism is also called the autonomic nervous system because it is largely not subject to voluntary control. The sympathetic influences functions that put the human body in a higher state of performance. In pharmacology , two different classes of sympathomimetics are distinguished. There are so-called alpha and beta sympathomimetics.

Most drugs based on sympathomimetics require a prescription because they significantly interfere with different bodily functions and can also have risky effects.

Pharmacological effect on body & organs

The sympathetic nervous system, which is part of the autonomic nervous system, has the task of making the body more ready to perform in stressful and emergency situations. If the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated by taking sympathomimetics, alertness, blood pressure and blood sugar levels increase . Furthermore, there is an expansion of the respiratory tract and the associated short-term increase in performance. A euphoric state sets in and the appetite is greatly reduced.

With regard to the mechanism of action, a distinction is made between direct and indirect sympathomimetics. The former develop their effect by imitating the messenger substances noradrenaline and adrenaline and thus activate the adrenoreceptors. Indirect sympathomimetics lead to an increase in messenger substances in the synaptic cleft of the human brain . The level is kept high on the one hand by an inhibited resumption and on the other hand by an increased distribution. Drugs of this type include ephedrine and amphetamine .

Furthermore, these active ingredients are divided into alpha and beta sympathomimetics. Alpha sympathomimetics bind predominantly to alpha adrenoceptors. These active ingredients constrict blood vessels and stabilize blood pressure. Beta sympathomimetics have an airway dilating effect. In addition to these two classes of substances, there are derivatives that affect both the alpha and beta adrenergic receptors. These alpha and beta sympathomimetics include the active ingredients metaraminol and norephedrine.

Medicinal Application & Use for Treatment & Prevention

When taking alpha-sympathomimetics, the smooth muscle cells contract and a so-called vasoconstriction occurs. This effect is used in medical applications, for example to treat inflammation of the nasal mucosa. The sympathomimetics cause the mucous membrane to decongest and thus alleviate the patient’s symptoms. Alpa sympathomimetics are therefore often contained in nasal sprays.

Oral medication with sympathomimetics is also possible. These substances have a blood pressure-stabilizing effect and are therefore used in the event of blood pressure fluctuations . The beta sympathomimetics are mainly used in pulmonary medicine. In medicine, substances that act on the so-called beta-2 receptors are mainly used. These substances include fenoterol, for example.

To ensure that these substances only develop their effect locally and not systemically, they are often inhaled in the form of gases. In people with asthma, these medicines can provide relief by widening the bronchi , making it easier to breathe . Beta sympathomimetics are also prescribed to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , or COPD for short.

Other recognized indication areas for sympathomimetics are ADHD , allergies , conjunctivitis , fatigue , obesity , bronchitis and narcolepsy . The latter describes a disturbance of the sleep-wake cycle . Those affected regularly fall into a microsleep.

Risks & side effects

The spectrum of action of sympathomimetics is broad. The risks and side effects depend on the type of sympathomimetic and its dosage. Many drugs that have a stimulating effect on the sympathetic nervous system require a prescription. Some of these substances such as MDMA, amphetamines or cocaine are common party drugs and are sold illegally to consumers, some of whom are underage. It is not advisable to consume these drugs without a necessary indication. There may be side effects such as itching , redness , irritation of the nasal mucosa , nausea , nausea , diarrhea and gastrointestinal complaintsset. Since the dosing of these substances as a party drug is self-directed, possible serious side effects cannot be ruled out. Fatal cardiac arrest can occur, especially in combination with alcohol .

Alpha sympathomimetics can generally lead to increased irritability . Difficulty concentrating and sleeping can be distressing side effects for the patient. Nose drops containing alpha sympathomimetics should only be taken for a short period of time. In the longer term, these damage the nasal mucosa and can lead to addiction. In addition to a general feeling of weakness and increased sweat production, beta sympathomimetics can lead to cardiac arrhythmias .

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.