Have Questions?
1-877-882-9275
We Have Answers!

Get Help - Find a Rehab Center Today

Speak with a certified drug and alcohol counselor

For help finding an addiction treatment center, Call us!

All calls are 100% confidential and free

1-877-882-9275

100% Confidential Help Request

Contact us now to get immediate help: 1-877-882-9275

Article Summary

Over The Counter Drug Abuse

When most people think about substance abuse, they often consider hard and illicit drugs, including but not limited to alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, methamphetamines, cocaine, and heroin. Unfortunately, many end up forgetting that over the counter drug abuse also exists.

Today, the abuse of these pain relievers and medications can also lead to a serious addiction. In some instances, it can cause the substance user to progress to other - more dangerous - substances later on.

Understanding OTC Drugs

OTC or over the counter drugs are substances that are available for purchase to the general population. This means that you can get your hand on these medications without a prescription. For this reason, these drugs are sold in supermarkets and drugstores.

In most cases, over the counter drugs are safe if you use them for the right medical reasons and at the recommended dose. However, they are like prescription, illegal, and legal drugs in the sense that they also come with the potential for misuse and abuse.

Even though these drugs are typically less potent - and therefore less dangerous - than other substances, they also pose risks. To this end, if you abuse them, you are highly like to develop an addiction.

In the same way, over the counter drug abuse also comes with a wide variety of health problems. These include, but are not always limited to death, heart problems, kidney failure, and memory loss.

The most commonly abused of all over the counter medications include:

  • Cold medicines (including Pseudoephedrine)
  • Cough medicines (such as Dextromethorphan, or DXM)
  • Motion sickness pills (like Dimenhydrinate)
  • Pain relievers (Acetaminophen, for instance)

In case you have been struggling with over the counter drug abuse or addiction, you might want to seek addiction treatment and rehabilitation. This way, you will be able to overcome your dependence on these medications and go on to lead a productive and meaningful life free of drugs.

OTC Drug Abuse

In many cases, over the counter drug use comes with a variety of medical effects and uses. With these drugs, for instance, you should be able to treat different conditions - from motion sickness to mild pain.

However, some people abuse these drugs while trying to self-medicate for psychological illnesses like depression and anxiety. Irrespective of the reason why you abuse over the counter drugs, you can be sure that you will receive an euphoric and pleasurable high - which can sometimes be accompanied by intense hallucinations. In general, abuse comprises any use over and beyond what is typically recommended for such drugs.

Those who abuse over the counter medications might also find themselves progressing - albeit slowly - to other more dangerous and even illicit substances. This is because of the growing need to get a better, more intense high.

Understanding Over The Counter Drug Addiction

When you consider the dangers of substance abuse and addiction, it is highly likely that hard drugs like methamphetamine and heroin will come to mind. However, even over the counter drugs can be abused. Today, research shows that these medications have also been posing significant dangers and health risks to many Americans.

In particular, NIDA (or the National Institute on Drug Abuse) reported that over the counter drugs - as well as prescription medications - are among the most commonly abused of all intoxicating and mind-altering substances in the United States. In this, they come after marijuana and alcohol.

In the same way, over the counter drug abuse has become so widespread for a variety of reasons. Among these reasons is the fact that these substances are quite accessible and affordable - especially in comparison to other substances.

Additionally, most of the people who use over the counter drugs - or end up abusing and misusing them - never realize just how addictive these medications can be. It is this error in judgment that has encouraged so many Americans to start abusing these drugs just because they can buy them right off the shelf and without a prescription.

However, the truth is that almost any drug that comes with mind-altering and intoxicating effects can cause harm unless you use it in the way it was intended. An excellent way to counter these adverse effects and the reach of the damage caused by over the counter drug abuse would be to provide more information - mainly relating to the various risks that are linked to these medications. Through this information, more people might be able to make healthier and smarter decisions about the use of these drugs.

Commonly Abused Over The Counter Drugs

Another reason why over the counter drugs are so easily abused is that most family members and friends do not monitor how loved ones use drugs if they bought them from a supermarket, drug store, or pharmacy.

To ensure that you do not lose a loved one to over the counter drug abuse, therefore, you might want to pay closer attention to how and what they use. This way, it could potentially be easier for you to get them the help that they need before they sink further down the road to addiction and chemical dependence on these drugs and other substances.

But which are the most commonly abused OTC medications? Essentially, the following drugs have historically had higher risks of substance abuse and eventual addiction:

a) Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen is a relatively mild analgesic substance used in the treatment of fevers and pain. The drug is so effective that it is often added to many other medications. The risks that come with abusing it, however, are also many - and may include coma, convulsions, stomach pains, and acute liver failure.

b) Allergy Medications

Antihistamine was initially developed for the management of the histamine receptors in the body. Today, this drug is among the essential ingredients added to most over the counter medications for allergies. Some people end up abusing these drugs because of the moderately hallucinatory effects of antihistamine. This is even though antihistamines also have many other negative consequences, including fever, disorientation, and nausea. Abusing these drugs can also make you more vulnerable to liver failure and substance dependence.

c) Caffeine

Caffeine is usually safe for human consumption - but in small doses. Even so, it is possible to overdose on this substance. When this happens, you are likely to suffer a variety of life-threatening effects, including breathing difficulties, convulsions, hallucinations, and irregular heartbeat.

d) Cough Syrup

Examples of popular cough syrups that are sold over the counter include Robitussin and NyQuil. These drugs contain DXM (or dextromethorphan - a substance that can produce psychoactive effects if you take it in excessive. In particular, using DXM in excessive doses can mimic some of the dissociative properties of common street drugs like PCP and ketamine. For this reason, many young people abuse cough syrups that contain this substance because doing so produces euphoric effects. The fact that these drugs are affordable and easily accessible makes the problem further endemic.

e) Diet Pills

At one point in history, the often colorful diet pills were often sold everywhere - from grocery stores and supermarkets to pharmacies and drug stores. Today, however, there is greater scrutiny of these largely unregulated medications. These regulations have revealed that many dietary supplements are not quite as harmless as you might assume. The FDA reported that most diet pills also contain prescription drugs, potentially dangerous chemicals, and controlled substances - albeit in small quantities. To this end, there is a risk that you might become dependent on these drugs and develop an addiction.

f) Ibuprofen

This is a non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory substance that is commonly found in many OTC sections of drug stores and pharmacies. The drug works by effectively limiting the body's natural ability to produce some of the chemicals that are responsible for inducing inflammation and pain. Although Ibuprofen isn't always addictive, some people may develop a dependence on it while trying to manage pain.

g) Pseudoephedrine

This medication is commonly added to nasal decongestants like Sudafed. People abuse the drug by using its components to produce methamphetamine in illicit laboratories and at home.

Mixing Alcohol With Over The Counter Drugs

While looking at the problem of over the counter drug abuse, it is also important to review the interactions between these substances and alcohol. On its own, abusing over the counter medications comes with a variety of risks. However, the practice will become increasingly dangerous when you add alcohol to the equation.

Today, many people rely on acetaminophen because of the widespread belief that this OTC drug is effective at curing hangovers. However, if you do this while drinking or soon after consuming alcohol, it might prove extremely dangerous. This is because alcohol will greatly magnify the potential for liver damage that you might suffer as a result of using acetaminophen. In some instances, any liver damage that you might suffer could prove to be irreversible.

In other cases, people also regularly mix cough syrups with alcohol - particularly those syrups that contain DXM. When you do this for the long term, it is highly likely that you may end up suffering from life-threatening and sometimes fatal respiratory problems.

Additionally, the more you combine over the counter drugs with alcohol, the higher the number of risks you are likely to end up suffering. In the long run, these risks might even end up claiming your life.

Using OTC Medications Safely

In case you are using an over the counter drug, it is essential that you are careful and that you ensure that you have administered the drug correctly. If you do not do this, it is highly likely that you may end up suffering the risk of addiction - among many other health risks. Thankfully, most of these medications come with easy to follow instructions that should make the use process more manageable for you.

The following steps should help you protect yourself and your loved ones from over the counter drug abuse and addiction:

  • Always review the instructions on the medications
  • Ask questions if you are not sure about how often or how much of an over the counter drug you should
  • Do not prescribe the doses of over the counter medications for yourself or anyone else
  • Follow the directions that come with over the counter drugs
  • Never experiment with over the counter drugs until you know the right dosage amounts
  • Read the label of Drug Facts and pay attention to all the chemicals that the drug contains - including but not limited to the correct dosage amounts
  • After reviewing the label of drug facts, ensure that you follow the instructions that are inserted into these medications
  • Talk to pharmacists and physicians about how to administer over the counter medications correctly

OTC Drug Abuse And Addiction Treatment

At times, you might find that you have been engaging in over the counter drug abuse for so long that you have developed dependence and addiction to these medications. When this happens, it is essential that you know that you do not have to deal with the problem on your own.

It is now easy to prevent yourself from suffering health complications and overdose instances and deaths as a result of abusing OTC medications. This is why it is so important that you access the help that you need.

To protect yourself, talk to an addiction treatment and rehabilitation facility. They will provide you with more information to quell your fear that OTC substance abuse has been threatening your health and wellness - or even life.

Although you might subscribe to the common misconception that only illicit drugs and hard substances like marijuana and alcohol can be abused and come with dangers, it is essential that you remember that over the counter drug abuse is also dangerous and risky.

Today, there are different types of OTC medications that also come with mind-altering or psychoactive properties. Abusing these drugs can cause you to suffer a plethora of serious mental health and medical consequences. This is why you should follow the instructions that come with over the counter drugs to the letter and seek addiction treatment and rehabilitation if you have become addicted to them.

If you don't know what to do,
Call to speak with a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor.

All calls are strictly confidential

One of our counselors will do a full screening assessment and help you find a treatment facility that fits your specific needs. Counselor screening assessment services are free of charge. You don't have to continue suffering with drug and alcohol addiction, help is a phone call away.

1-877-882-9275

Organizations We Support