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13 May Abuse of Over-the-Counter Medications


Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are medicines that have been appointed for people to use without needing a doctor’s prescription. They have a lower propensity for addiction than prescription drugs, but people still find ways to abuse them. Any drug has the potential for being abused, but there are a few categories that seem to cause the most trouble.

Cold and Cough Remedies Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant found in many OTC cold remedies. When taken in large doses, it acts as a psychoactive similar to ketamine, or PCP. This drug is commonly abused among teens. Its side effects are vomiting, nausea, numbness, loss of motor function, respiratory depression, and death. Long-term use can cause liver, kidney and brain damage.

Pseudoephedrine is also found in cold medicines and is meant to act as a decongestant. It is a stimulant that abusers take in larger quantities to increase energy levels and wakefulness. Pseudoephedrine is also one of the ingredients used to make meth. It can cause heart palpitations, loss of appetite, nervousness and anxiety. It can also cause liver and kidney damage.

Diuretics and Laxatives These types of over-the-counter drugs are often abused by people who are looking to lose weight. Some people will take a laxative following binge eating in hopes of ridding themselves of the extra calories. Abuse of these drugs can leave a person severely dehydrated and strip their bodies of essential minerals and nutrients. This can cause trembling, dizziness, blurred vision, and kidney damage. Long-term misuse of laxatives and diuretics can cause permanent damage in the large intestine, dependency, infections, and an increased risk of colon cancer.

Caffeine Caffeine is a stimulant that is found in energy drinks, soda, tea, coffee, herbal supplements, and caffeine pills. While ingesting a regular amount of caffeine, like one cup of coffee, can temporarily boost a person’s energy levels, having too much carries very negative side effects. Overdosing on caffeine can cause irregular heartbeat, nausea, headache, sleeplessness, tremors, and anxiety. Having caffeine in conjunction with alcohol or other drugs can heighten the side effects, which can lead to serious problems like seizures, and can even be life threatening.

When used as directed, most OTC medications are not habit forming, but with long-term abuse, they can cause a dependency. Just like with illegal drug use, a person can build a tolerance to these drugs over time, which will cause them to need more to obtain the desired effect. Dependency on OTC drugs can change the way the body functions. One example of this is with addiction to laxatives, which can cause the bowels to cease proper function when the drug is not present. Abuse and addiction to over-the-counter medication is dangerous and requires the same kinds of treatment and rehabilitation as addiction to illegal drugs.

Call 1.855.653.4325 to speak with an Addiction Specialist 24/7.

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