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  • Writer's pictureShruti GOCHHWAL

7 Over the Counter Medicines You Should Not Abuse

Common OTC drug abuse

Over-the-counter drugs are easily available in drug stores and supermarkets and just about anyone can get their hands on them. Due to this easy access and few restrictions,  it gives people an open opportunity to abuse or consume such drugs under no supervision.

Usually, there are two main reasons for drug overdose:

●    Lack of Knowledge

A lot of people wrongly assume that just because Common OTC drugs abuse are legal, it is always safe. Sometimes, people may also believe that consuming more medicine will add to its benefits or speed up the process.

However, such assumptions couldn’t be more wrong as overdosing on a medicine could seriously cause permanent damage to your health and worsen the condition that was intended to be cured.

Drug abuse stop

OTC medicine abuse, Credit: pxfuel

●    Addiction

Some of common OTC drugs abuse come with mild side effects like dizziness, sleepiness, etc. Sometimes, abusers over-consume such medicines in the attempt to increase such side effects to attain the feeling of euphoria or temporary numbness, hallucinations – all of which are signs of escapism.

Such consumptions could either be intentional or an accidental discovery which eventually progresses to dependence and addiction.

For example, 9% of young adults worldwide are OTC drug abusers, while that percentage may seem low, it’s still 1.3 million people.

Cough syrup

Cough syrup, Credit: pixabay

Here are some of the most common OTC medicines that are abused:

1)  Cough Medicines

Dextromethorphan is a cough suppressant that affects the signals in the brain that stimulate and trigger cough reflex and is thus used to treat a cough.

However, usage of such medications above it’s recommended intake could lead to intoxication and dangerous side effects.

It is one of the most common OTC drugs that is abused as such medications are available in the cabinets of almost every household.

Cough medicine dosage as a drug

Recommended intake: 120mgDosageEffects130-200mgmild stimulation and euphoria.200-400mgstronger euphoria and hallucinations.300-600mgloss of motor coordination and visual distortions.500-1500mgout-of-body sensations.

Side effects of overdosing:

  1. Breathing problems

  2. Fainting or blacking out

  3. Muscle twitching

  4. Extreme drowsiness or sleepiness

  5. Heartbeat problems

  6. Too high or too low blood pressure

  7. Elevated body temperature or fevers

  8. Vomiting

  9. Blurred vision

  10. Brain damage and other neurological disorders

Common medications

  1. Ascoril D

  2. Dexalone

  3. Tussalyte

White, Capsule

OTC medicine, Credit: Pikist

2)  Cold Medicines

Pseudoephedrine, an active stimulant ingredient used in many cold medicines, usually works to relieve nasal from colds or allergies and also relieve sinus congestion.

However, the same ingredient is used in illicit drugs, with a different dosage, to induce hallucinations and intense high.

Harmful side effects of overdosing includes:

  1. Irregular heartbeat and arrhythmias

  2. Shortness of breath

  3. High blood pressure

  4. Dizziness

  5. Seizures

Common medications

  1. Sudafed syrup or tablet

  2. Kofron BR

  3. Sucor

3)  Motion Sickness Pills (Dimenhydrinate)

Dimenhydrinate is used to treat motion sickness and vertigo.

However, high doses of  the drug can cause complications like:

  1. Hallucinations

  2. Ringing ears

  3. Nausea

  4. Irregular heartbeat

  5. Weakness

  6. Dizziness

  7. Seizures

Sometimes, it could even lead to coma and death.

The drug is often abused for some of its psychedelic properties mentioned above like hallucinations, vision distortions, ego dissolution, and empathy enhancement.

Overdosage:  200 to 1200 mg (depending on body weight).

girl sitting in car

girl sitting in car, Credit: Wallpaperflare

4)  Pain killers

Acetaminophen is most commonly used to cure or provide relief to minor body aches, pain, and headaches.

However, the rate of abuse of this drug is so high that it puts thousands of people in the hospital each year as it causes serious complications like liver damage, failure, and hepatitis.

Other side effects include:

  1. Drowsiness

  2. Hepatotoxicity

  3. Hypersensitivity reactions

5)  Antacids

Antacids are used to treat stomach problems related to heartburn, acidity, acid indigestion, and sour stomach that causes an upset stomach by helping with bloating, pressure, pain, or gas symptoms.

Serious side effects of overdosing include:

  1. Diarrhea

  2. Constipation

  3. Stomach cramps

  4. Kidney stones (rare cases)

  5. Acid rebound: A condition where the stomach produces even more acids

Most of the cases of abuse are due to accidental overdose.

stomach pain

OTC medications used to cure stomach problems, Credit: public domain pictures

6)  Laxatives

Loperamide is a synthetically produced opioid used to relieve diarrhea but causes a euphoric effect when taken in large enough doses.

Other side effects include:

  1. Abdominal pain

  2. Constipation

  3. Drowsiness or dizziness

  4. Nausea and weakness

7)  Antihistamines

DPH acts as an antihistamine and is mainly used to treat allergies and thereby reducing allergic symptoms. Sedation or extreme sleepiness is usually a strong side effect of these drugs but is sometimes intentionally used in sleep aids.

Other side effects of DPH include:

  1. Sinus tachycardia

  2. Dry mouth

  3. Blurred vision

  4. ileus

  5. Urinary problems

  6. CNS depression

  7. Hyperactivity

  8. Psychosis

It’s multiple properties and effects make it a good ingredient for a variety of medications which consequently increases the opportunities for drug abuse.

Drugs abuser consumed DPH to:

  1. Elevated mood

  2. Increased energy levels

  3. Euphoria

Common medication:

  1. Benadryl Allergy

  2. Nytol


OTC drug abuse should taken seriously, Credit :Needpix

Seek Professional Help!

Once problems of drug abuse have been identified, it is very important to ask for help and follow through with it. Common OTC drugs abuse addiction or abuse can be as equally dangerous as illegal drugs and should not be taken lightly. It can cause problems related to your heart, kidneys, liver and nervous system and can also lead to death.

If you are personally facing such problems or know a loved one going through it, support and help should be offered and extended.

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