Know Why Over-The-Counter Drugs Can Be Addicting


The Use Of Over-the-Counter (OTC) Drugs Can Result In Addiction If You’re Not Careful

As the term implies, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are medicines sold in drug stores and supermarkets that can be bought without a doctor’s prescription. The OTC medicines are generally safe to use for as long as the recommended dosage is followed. However, there still lies a risk of drug abuse even OTC substances are milder than other prescription drugs in pharmacies. You may not realize it soon enough, but the dependence on OTC drugs are not unheard of, particularly for people who self-medicate and find relief in the use of such medicines. To avoid falling into the trap of being addicted to OTC drugs, the best way is to educate yourself on how they work and on how you can address your urge to consume excessively the potentially deadly substances.

“Those who are abusing OTC drugs are at a higher risk of trying on more dangerous and illegal drugs because they are after a ‘greater high.’”

What Over-The-Counter Drugs Are Usually Abused?

You have to know what these typical OTC drugs are. They are used for different remedies, and the fact that they are easily accessible makes it a target for abuse. People who have grown dependent on OTC drugs find great relief in consuming heavy doses of the medicines, beyond what is prescribed in the label.

OTC Infograph

Cold Medicines

The active ingredient in cold medicines that is known as pseudoephedrine substance is responsible for decongesting clogged nasal passages. As it is a stimulant, excessive use of this chemical may cause a feeling of high or even hallucinations. Other more serious symptoms of having a high dosage of pseudoephedrine include; dizziness, difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, and high blood pressure.

Cough Medicines

The dextromethorphan found in certain cough medicines serves to provide temporary relief to the person suffering from a cough, but not work on the cause of a cough. This ‘antitussive’ or suppressant decreases the brain activity that is responsible for the coughing.  Dextromethorphan in cough medicines, when abused, can lead to a fast heart rate, vomiting, jitters, and blurred vision. Similar to the excessive use of cold medications, cough medicines can also trigger hallucinations and a euphoric state if abused.

Pain-killer Medicines

Acetaminophen is the key ingredient that provides pain relief. People tend to abuse this type of medication because they become dependent on it for their chronic pain. But what is dangerous about its long-term use and high doses is that it can result eventually in liver disease. Typically as well, pain-killer abuse can cause stomach aches, nausea, diarrhea, and excessive sweating.


Motion-sickness Medicines

Dimenhydrinate in motion sickness medicines works on vertigo and motion sickness. Its psychedelic properties make it a very good candidate for substance abuse because if the medicines are excessively used, they can cause both euphoric or depressive state. The overdose could also lead to episodes of hallucinations, irregular heartbeat, nausea, ringing in the ears, and even more seriously, coma and death.

What are the usual withdrawal signs of over-the-counter (OTC) drug abuse?

Slowly, OTC drug use can alter the brain’s chemistry and increase the user’s tolerance to the drugs, especially as the desired effects are seen (for example, relief of cold, coughs, and pain). When a person addicted to OTC drugs stops using them, they tend to experience the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Hostility
  • Confusion

Is There A Way To Treat It?

Identifying an addiction to OTC drugs can be quite a challenge. It’s because unlike other illicit drugs, OTC drugs are seen as less harmful because of their healing properties. They are not viewed as addictive at the onset, and signs of OTC drug abuse are more subtle than that of the other substance abuse symptoms. But the good news is that OTC drug addiction has various treatment options – from inpatient and outpatient programs to individual and group therapies. There are also behavioral therapies and mental health counseling. Depending on the extent of substance abuse, getting into a rehab program is the best decision an OTC addict could ever make. Of course, the person won’t be able to do it all on its own. The family should be behind the rehab a hundred percent.

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