Several common syntheses of methamphetamine. Note: ephedrine/pseudoephedrine are featured in 4 out of the 6. The Birch reduction, using liquid ammonia and lithium metal, is probably my favorite because it's also known as the Nazi method.
Psudoephedrine (the drug in Sudafed) is a wonderful chemical. It is very effective at reducing nasal congestion by 1) constricting the blood vessels in mucus membranes, reducing mucus production and 2) promoteing er… more free flowing congestion. Psudoephedrine is so wonderful that it does all this without causing the drowsiness associated with antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl).
Unfortunately, access to pseudoephedrine has been increasing restricted because it is one of the primary precursor chemicals used in methamphetamine synthesis (see above). The fact that psudoephedrine is now “over the counter” rather than “off the shelf” is not much more than a minor hindrance to the avid meth enthusiast or determined nasal decongestant user. Unfortunately, the pill-pushers that be, have begun to promote a new nasal decongestant, phenylephrine as an “off the shelf” alternative to psudoephedrine.
What’s the big deal? You ask. Why the chemistry lesson? Well, recent research has shown that at the FDA’s advised dosage, phenylephrine is not a more effective nasal decongestant than a placebo. My point is this: next time you have a stuffy nose and are in need of relief, don’t waste your money on nasal decongestants with phenylephrine (products like Sudafed PE, or generic non-psudoephedrine containing pills) they don’t work.
Now, that’s some nerdy consumer advocacy if I do say so myself.