What are sympathomimetic drugs

SympathomimeticsSympathomimetics are active ingredients that promote the effects of the sympathetic nervous system, a part of the autonomic nervous system. Their effects are based either on direct agonism at α- or β-adrenoceptors or on the indirect increase in adrenaline and noradrenaline concentrations. Sympathomimetics are used, among other things, for asthma and COPD, anaphylaxis, low blood pressure, colds and conjunctivitis.

synonymous: adrenergic agonists, adrenergic agonists, adrenergic agents


Sympathomimetics are commercially available, for example, in the form of tablets, capsules, granules, injection solutions, eye drops and nasal sprays.

Structure and properties

Sympathomimetics are structurally derived from the natural neurotransmitters adrenaline and noradrenaline.


Sympathomimetics have sympathomimetic properties, i.e. they promote the effects of the sympathetic nervous system, a part of the autonomic (autonomic) nervous system.

Their effects are based either on direct agonism at α- or β-adrenoceptors (GPCR) or on increasing the concentration of adrenaline or noradrenaline, for example through interaction with the synaptic vesicles, through inhibition of metabolism or through inhibition of reuptake. A distinction can therefore be made between direct and indirect sympathomimetics.

Sympathomimetics differ in their selectivity for the α or β adrenoceptors and their subtypes.

Their pharmacological effects include ("Fight or Flight"):

  • Dilation of the pupil
  • Increased heart rate, contractility and conduction speed in the heart
  • Vasoconstriction
  • Decrease in motility and tone in the digestive tract
  • Bronchodilation
  • Renin secretion
  • Central stimulation

Mechanism of action of the sympathomimetics, click to enlarge. Illustration © PharmaWiki


According to the specialist information. Sympathomimetics are administered both systemically and topically.


Sympathomimetics can be misused as stimulants, doping agents, anabolic steroids, intoxicants and as smart drugs.

Active ingredients

Selection of sympathomimetic agents:

Inhalations, beta2 sympathomimetics:

Injections and Infusions:

Amphetamines and other stimulants:

Low blood pressure:

Decongestant nasal sprays:

Cold remedies:

Eye drop:

Irritable bladder:


Other active ingredients such as the various antidepressants have sympathomimetic properties.


Important areas of application for sympathomimetics (selection):


Contraindications include (selection):

The complete precautionary measures can be found in the medicinal product information sheet.


Drug interactions occur with other sympathomimetic agents and with agents that inhibit the breakdown of the substances (e.g. MAO inhibitors). Sympatholytics can cancel out the effects of sympathomimetics.

unwanted effects

Possible adverse effects include:

  • sleep disorders
  • Central disorders such as headache, dizziness, irritability, nervousness, fear
  • Rapid heart rate, cardiac arrhythmias, palpitations, angina pectoris
  • high blood pressure
  • Gastrointestinal disorders such as nausea and abdominal pain
  • Vascular constriction, goose bumps, feeling cold, paleness
  • Urinary retention
  • Hyperglycemia
see also


  • Pharmaceutical product information (CH, USA)
  • European Pharmacopoeia PhEur
  • Specialist literature
  • Pharmacology textbooks and manuals

Conflicts of Interest: None / Independent. The author has no relationships with the manufacturers and is not involved in the sale of the products mentioned.

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This article was last changed on June 2nd, 2020.
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