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Article Summary

OTC Drug Addiction: All You Need To Know

According to statistics there has been a troubling increase in the usage of over the counter drugs all over the world. Since these drugs do not require a prescription many adolescents, teens and adults have turned to them since they are legal, cheap and readily available. Over the counter drugs popularly abbreviated as OTC drugs are readily available in many places such as in drugstores, grocery stores convenience stores and supermarkets. Due to their readiness of availability there is belief among people that they are less harmful than those that would otherwise require a prescription. However the fact is that all these medications are dangerous and can lead to addiction and other negative consequences that shall be discussed.

Actually all OTC drugs have a documented medical purpose. However when they are taken more than the recommended doses, used more frequently than usual, or taken directly or with other illegal or legal substances they can lead to serious health problems.

Research shows that the most common type of OTC drugs that are abused are those containing a substance called dextromethorphan(DXM), an ingredient used to treat flu, cough or cold symptoms. Other OTC drugs that are abused include those believed to promote weight loss for example diet pills, laxatives and diuretics. Research shows that all these drugs have serious and sometimes even fatal side effects to the human body when used for a long period of time. OTC drug addiction is a very critical problem which has led to the poor health, addiction and death of many people.

Many over the counter medications are abused for a variety of reasons. These reasons tend to be misguided and are ideas passed on by people who have attempted to use the drugs for recreational purposes. You find that none of the alternative uses are recognized as a proper way to use any of the medications. Most people use the drugs out of curiosity or peer pressure.

The most commonly abused OTC medications

The following are some of the most popular OTC drugs that are commonly abused.

- Pain relievers: These are types of drugs that contain substances such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. People like them because they think by taking larger doses the medicine will work faster. Dangerous side effects of the pain relievers include liver damage, stomach bleeding, increased risk of cardiac arrest and kidney failure.

- Cold and cough medicines: are also popular since they contain dextromethorphan that when taken large doses has the same effects as alcohol e.g. cause hallucinations or act as stimulant. Dangerous side effects of dextromethorphan include: loss of muscle movement, vomiting, shallow breathing, impaired judgment, drowsiness, blurred vision, fast heart rate and when taken with alcohol, other drugs or in large doses it can cause death.

- Diet pills: these are the likes of diuretics and laxatives which are abused since they can promote fast weight loss by suppressing one's appetite and can also cause a mild buzz. Dangerous side effects include: kidney problems, dehydration, hair loss, nervousness, tremor, extreme paranoia, dehydration, high blood pressure, raid and irregular heartbeat, insomnia, irritability, anxiety and heart failure among others.

OTC drug addiction depends upon several factors such as the type of over counter drug that the individual is abusing. Those who are addicted may experience emotional withdrawal symptoms such as depression or problems in processing thoughts or recalling memories. It is therefore important to approach someone with OTC addiction carefully and with patience. Cough suppressants that contain codeine can also be highly addictive. Just as with any other type of drug addiction starts with abuse that leads to tolerance therefore the need to increase their dosage. This is followed by withdrawal symptoms in the event of the absence of the drug.

How does the addiction occur?

Addiction occurs when a person becomes either psychologically or physically dependent. When one begins to feel that they cannot do without the drug then this can be categorized as an addiction. There are several signs to look for in yourself or in others if you want to determine addiction. These may include:

  • Needing to take more than the required amount so as to get the desired effect.
  • Being secretive about the drug use.
  • Experiences difficulties in trying to stop or cut down on the drug use.
  • Feeling guilty and wrong after using the drug.
  • Feeling that you can do anything so as to get the drug.
  • Being very defensive and agitated when confronted about the drug.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after stopping or reducing the dosage.
  • Some of the withdraw symptoms to look out for include:
  • Lack of proper coordination
  • A feeling of depression
  • Changes in heart rate or blood pressure.
  • Changes in one appetite
  • Nausea, diarrhea and constipation.
  • Anxiety, seizures and insomnia are also signs of withdrawal.

The symptoms will differ depending on the type of drug that one is abusing. If OTC drugs mixed with alcohol then overdose and death is also likely.

Available treatment for over the counter drug addiction

OTC drug addiction is a common issue and the affected person should not feel as if they are all alone in the world. The first step is to accept that you have a problem and to seek help from any of the many detox programs around. It is beneficial to join a program that focuses on a holistic treatment. Programs should not only focus on treatment but also areas such as meditation, counseling, exercise and good diet.

The type of treatment will depend on factors such as gender, age, length and severity of the addiction. You should not be worried since there are centers that can relieve the effects no matter how far off to the rest of the world one may seem. Treatment can be residential, outpatient or through partial hospitalization. There are many types of therapies available such as individual, family, group, and cognitive behavioral therapy. In all these the affected person should feel loved and cared for through the support of his or her group members.

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