Over-the-Counter Drug Abuse

When people get sick, they usually take some sort of medication to help them get better. Some people may choose to go to a doctor to get a prescription medication that they can take. Others may just choose to use over-the-counter drugs. 

More people tend to turn to over-the-counter drugs when not feeling well. This is because you don’t need a prescription to get your hands on over-the-counter drugs. Unfortunately, though, the accessibility of over-the-counter drugs is the reason why over-the-counter drug abuse is so common. 

What Are Over-the-Counter Drugs?

Over-the-Counter (OTC) drugs are medications that one can get without a prescription. These types of medications are called “over-the-counter” drugs because you can literally get them from the counters and shelves of supermarkets and drug stores. 

The reason why you don’t need a prescription to get over-the-counter drugs is that they aren’t as potent as prescription drugs. As a result, OTC drugs are safer for the everyday person to use. 

Many people assume that you cannot abuse or develop an addiction to over-the-counter drugs. This is because they are so accessible and aren’t as potent as prescription drugs. This assumption is wrong though. When not used properly, you can abuse and develop an addiction to over-the-counter drugs just like you can to prescription or illegal drugs. Thus, people shouldn’t be careless about their over-the-counter drug use. 

About Over-the-Counter Drug Abuse

Taking the unrecommended amount of an over-the-counter drug or taking an over-the-counter drug for a longer period of time than recommended is drug abuse. Unfortunately, people don’t take over-the-counter drug abuse as seriously as they do illegal or prescription drug abuse. This is partly due to how accessible over-the-counter drugs are. 

Due to its accessibility, many people abuse over-the-counter drugs.

More attention should be put on over-the-counter drug abuse though, especially since over-the-counter drugs can give you most of the same effects that prescription and illegal drugs can give you when abused. For example, the abuse of many over-the-counter drugs can give you a euphoric “high” feeling. The same euphoric “high” feeling that often leads to addiction. 

Many drug addicts even start their drug abuse with over-the-counter drugs due to their accessibility. Eventually, these drug abusers may turn to illegal or prescription drug abuse to get a greater high. 

Many people with anxiety and depression also abuse over-the-counter drugs to self-medicate themselves. Over time, over-the-counter drug abuse can lead to serious health problems such as memory loss, kidney failure, heart problems, or even death. 

People Who Tend to Abuse over-the-counter Drugs

People from all walks of life practice over-the-counter drug abuse. over-the-counter drug abuse is particularly popular amongst youth and young adults. This, once again, is partly because of how accessible over-the-counter drugs are. Young people also like to mix over-the-counter drugs with other substances such as alcohol to increase their high. 

Over-the-Counter Drug Abuse: Commonly Abused Substances

Many people use over-the-counter drugs to treat coughs, colds and fevers, and motion sickness. Thus, it’s no surprise that over-the-counter drugs that treat these conditions are commonly abused. 

Cough Medications

over-the-counter cough medications contain an ingredient called dextromethorphan, or DXM. DXM is also one of the main ingredients in allergy, cold, and flu medications. So, you can find this substance in over-the-counter drugs like NyQuil, Robitussin, and Vicks Formula 44. Abuse of cough medications and other over-the-counter drugs with DXM in them is very popular amongst young people.  

When taken in its recommended dosage amount, DXM is safe to use and gives off very little side effects. When abused though, this substance can cause intense physical and psychoactive effects. 

Levels of DXM abuse

There are different levels of abuse of DXM. These levels of abuse are dependent on the dosage of a drug with this substance in it that a person takes. 

The First Plateau

The first plateau or the first level of DXM abuse occurs when individuals use 100-200 mg of DXM. At this dosage, individuals will experience mild stimulation and euphoria.

The Second Plateau

The second plateau (level) of DXM drug abuse occurs at a dosage of 200-400 mg. At this level of DXM drug abuse, individuals will experience hallucinations and an even stronger sense of euphoria. 

The Third Plateau

The third plateau (level) of DXM drug abuse occurs at 300-600 mg. At this level, individuals will experience visual distortions and a loss of motor coordination on top of hallucinations and high levels of euphoria. 

The Fourth Plateau

The fourth and highest plateau of DXM drug abuse occurs when individuals take any dosage of DXM that is higher than 600 mg. At this level, individuals will experience extreme sedation, significant hallucinations, dangerous dissociative effects, and out-of-body sensations that make people feel as if things aren’t real and that they are literally out of their bodies. 

Symptoms of Extreme High Doses of DXM

Extreme high doses of DXM can cause life-threatening health issues such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Blacking out
  • Blurred vision
  • Brain damage
  • Liver damage
  • Muscle twitching
  • Breathing problems
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Heart palpitations/rapid heart rate

Cold and Flu Medications

A primary ingredient in over-the-counter cold and flu medications is pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine can make people experience hallucinations and “high” euphoric feelings when abused. When people use pseudoephedrine properly, it can help relieve people of nasal and sinus congestion. 

Extensive abuse of pseudoephedrine can cause irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, dizziness, and seizures. People can even use pseudoephedrine to help make methamphetamine.  

Motion Sickness Medication

Primary ingredients in over-the-counter motion sickness medications that people like to abuse are dimenhydrinate and diphenhydramine. The marketable version of dimenhydrinate is Dramamine, and the marketable version of diphenhydramine is Benadryl. 

When people abuse dimenhydrinate, it causes them to experience hallucinations and psychedelic properties. When people abuse diphenhydramine, it causes them to experience psychoactive effects, along with mild euphoria and sedation. 

Extreme high doses of dimenhydrinate can cause health issues like ringing in the ears, nausea, irregular heartbeat, seizures, coma, and even death. Extreme doses of diphenhydramine can lead to serious health issues like heart attacks, seizures, and a comatose state. Chronic abuse of both dimenhydrinate and diphenhydramine can cause organ damage, depression, and cognitive issues such as memory loss and problems learning. 

OTC Stimulants

Over-the-counter stimulants include numerous different types of stimulant medications. Some of these include diet pills, energy drinks, herbal formulations, decongestants, and even caffeine. 

Abuse of over-the-counter weight loss stimulants is a major problem in the United States. In fact, according to the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, 6% of young women and 4% of young men in America abuse over-the-counter diet medications. This abuse of over-the-counter diet medications is even associated with eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia. 

Abuse of over-the-counter weight loss medications, laxatives, and other stimulants can even cause serious physical health issues and side effects such as stroke or heart attack, gastrointestinal issues, liver or kidney damage, dehydration, hallucinations, delusions, and depression. 

Abuse of herbal diet product stimulants can also cause serious health issues. This is due to the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate herbal diet products. Thus, herbal diet products can sometimes contain dangerous products in them. 

Some decongestants also contain many stimulants in them. Oftentimes the stimulants found in decongestants cause people to feel short-term euphoria and boosts of energy. When excessively used, the stimulants in many decongestants can cause a person to experience cardiovascular problems, irregular heartbeat, hallucinations, and potential seizures. People can even use some of these stimulant substances to form methamphetamine or crystal meth. 

Energy products with high amounts of caffeine in them contain mild stimulants that, when taken in large amounts, can also cause health problems. For example, people that consume large doses of caffeine can experience dehydration, gastrointestinal issues, cardiovascular issues, anxiety, panic attacks, caffeine intoxication, and caffeine withdrawals. 

Caffeine intoxication can lead to health issues like insomnia, gastrointestinal issues, nervousness, restlessness, and muscle twitching. Caffeine withdrawals can cause fatigue, difficulty concentrating, headaches, depression, and irritability. 

OTC Pain Relievers

Many people accidentally abuse over-the-counter pain relievers by using them for longer than they are supposed to. Some people may even take more than the recommended amount of over-the-counter pain relievers because they think it will relieve them of their pain quicker. Abuse of over-the-counter pain relievers can cause health issues like liver damage, kidney damage, and damaging cardiovascular effects. 

Over-the-Counter Drug Abuse Treatment

Treatment for over-the-counter drug abuse is similar to treatment for prescription or illegal drug abuse. You should attend detox followed by inpatient or outpatient treatment depending on the severity of your addiction. After you complete addiction treatment, over-the-counter drug addicts should attend aftercare services to help keep them from abusing over-the-counter drugs again. 

Receive Medical Detox and Addiction Treatment at Coastal Detox

At Coastal Detox, we take all forms of drug abuse and addiction seriously, even over-the-counter drug abuse and addiction. Thus, if you’re suffering from over-the-counter drug abuse and need help, you can attend detox and addiction treatment at our facility

Located on the beautiful Treasure Coast of Florida, the Coastal Detox facility offers safe and individualized medical detox and addiction treatment programs and therapy services. We also offer our patients holistic addiction treatment and therapy and 24/7 client care. 

To learn more about Coastal Detox, our highly professional medical detox programs, and our addiction treatment and therapy services, contact us today! We look forward to helping you.

Connor Barton
Connor Barton
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Tara Payne
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Mary Katz
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