The rampant drug abuse seen across the country and around the world is not limited to the drugs being sold on the street, but to non-prescription drugs as well. Many of the common over the counter (OTC) medications used to treat everyday illnesses are being abused by kids and adults which in turn threatens their health. This is also why safe usage and purchases of OTC CBD is on the rise — as there are often no overdose issues or side effects of the herbal supplement.
Sadly, with so much attention being paid to illegal drugs sold on the streets along with certain prescription medications, such as opioids, news about how OTC drugs are being abused is slipping through the cracks. However, it should be noted that there has been more attention being paid to drug abuse overall.
While there is a renewed effort to combat all forms of drug abuse, it all starts in the home with the availability of the medications to children and teens. Identifying the abuse early and stopping it is key to turning the problem around. Plus, simple, preventative measures such as locking up all medications or not purchasing them except when needed will help in stopping the abuse before it can begin.
Here are the fifteen most commonly abused non-prescription drugs which hopefully you can catch and limit in terms of their use. (source)
A common pain reliever, acetaminophen also reduces fever and is one of the more effective drugs of its type. However, when taking too many too close together, it can damage the lining of the stomach and even cause liver damage. This often occurs when the pain is greater than the ability of the acetaminophen to tamp it down, so many people take more to combat the discomfort. For severe pain, a prescription drug is generally better.
It may seem strange that antacids are considered abused, but the truth is that too many people take them for reasons that have nothing to do with their primary purpose. Antacids lower the level of acid in the stomach when too much is produced which causes gas, bloating, and heartburn. However, when the raise level of acid is caused by anxiety or stress, it is best to lower the stress levels first which will reduce the amount of acid present.
Taking antacids too often causes harm to the stomach lining and digestive tract. Also, it stops the production of an enzyme needed to properly digest food which may lead to more issues.
This is the most common ingredient in antihistamines which is used to relieve the itch and discomfort caused by allergic reactions and insect bites. Essentially, Benadryl dries up the body’s response to both allergies and bites from insects. Unfortunately, they also cause drowsiness as well, which is why many people take them to help fall asleep which leads to the abuse.
Another common OTC drugs that have been abused for many years, this type of medication is often in the news because it contains pseudo-ephedrine, which is a common ingredient in methamphetamines. However, the most common abuse of cold medications is when they are taken for the wrong reasons. Quite often, the medications do not treat the proper symptoms which can lead to overuse.
This is a medication that has been abused for many decades. First, it was about the alcohol content, but since that ingredient has been replaced, the abuse mostly centers on dextromethorphan. This drug most commonly causes teens to drunk whole bottles because it provides the feeling of being stoned or high. However, consuming great quantities of cough syrup may cause considerable damage to the liver because of another substance, acetaminophen.
Diet pills have changed quite a bit over the years. Before, the main ingredient was ephedrine which was considered dangerous when too much was taken. Today, most diet pills contain caffeine or similar ingredients which are safer but can still be abused. Although designed to help people lose weight, diet pills are often used as energy boosters which can cause damage if too many are taken over a short time.
This OTC helps the body absorb more oxygen, which is why many athletes use this non-prescription drug to enhance their performance. However, when misused, ephedrine may cause serious side effects which can endanger the health and even lead in rare cases to death. Special care must be taken when using this over the counter medication as the side effects may be quite damaging.
This is a combination of herbs which are legal to sell over the counter which may create the same feeling as being high, euphoric, or enhancing sexual sensations. The main ingredient is ephedra, which is actually banned in diet supplements, but legal in herb form. The accessibility of this drug makes it easy for teens to purchase and to overdose. Side effects include higher blood pressure, muscles spasms, strokes, heart attack, seizures, and in rare cases, death.
Used by those with asthma to open air passages, inhalers contain albuterol which increases blood pressure, boosts the heart rate, and may even cause heart palpitations when too much is taken in. Abuse of asthma inhalers is not all that common, but it can occur in those who take in too much to overcome the symptoms of an asthma attack.
It may seem unusual that medications designed to relieve constipation would be abused, but the truth is that many believe that laxatives promote weight loss which is misleading at best and dangerous because when overused, the body stops producing the enzymes responsible for proper digestion. Laxatives do not get at the cause of being overweight, but when overused they wind up affecting how the digestive tract works.
This is a commonly-used OTC medication because so many people suffer from motion sickness whether on a plane, train, boat, or even in a vehicle. Although motion sickness is common among most people, it is also sporadic in nature meaning that the vast majority will only occasionally use medication. However, most motion sickness pills contain either dimenhydrinate or Benadryl which when taken in large doses causes people to feel high and on rare occasions suffer from hallucinations.
While the dosage required to cause such symptoms depend on the tolerance and body weight of the person taking them, some teens have taken up to 40 tablets to get the feeling of being high. Long-term abuse may cause damage to the liver and kidneys, abdominal pain, and even depression. Extremely high dosages may lead to heart issues and in rare cases inducing coma or causing death.
Many nasal decongestants contain pseudoephedrine which again is a common ingredient in methamphetamines. Overdosing on nasal decongestants that use this substance may lead to complications which vary from person to person. Ideally, safe alternatives should be used such as saltwater decongestants which shrink nasal passages naturally. Otherwise, caution will have to be used when dealing with this form of drug.
Most people may be surprised that nutmeg is considered dangerous when it is commonly consumed during the holidays. However, normal consumption does not cause any side effects. When nutmeg is ingested in great quantities it may cause feelings of euphoria, followed by nausea and vomiting which may last for an hour. The hallucinations however, may continue for another 24 hours depending on how much was ingested.
Apart from herbal ecstasy, there are numerous other herbs which are sold as over the counter supplements which are often advertised as medications to address certain issues. However, overdosing on some of the herbal products, such as salvia for example, may result in the distortion of reality and even violent behavior.
One of the most commonly abused non-prescription drugs, sleeping pills are overused by those who suffer from stress or anxiety that causes them to stay up at night. People who take sleeping pills every night will build up a resistance to them which only makes it more difficult to fall asleep. The result is that more sleeping pills than are recommended are taken which causes further issues.
There are other medications as well which may be sold over the counter and result in unwanted side effects due to overuse. One of the oldest, yet arguably most recent addition to medical use is marijuana. Now becoming legal in a growing number of states, many people are using marijuana as an over the counter medication to combat pain. However, if the marijuana contains THC, which is the active ingredient that causes people to get high, they also may suffer from hallucinations and other unwanted symptoms depending on its use.
In the end, fighting the abuse of non-prescription drugs is all about diligence and keeping them locked up, so that kids and others in the household will not take advantage of them. This means that you should regularly check all over the counter or OTC medications and keep them in places where they are difficult for your children to reach.
Plus, if you notice the abuse, it’s important to act quickly and try to catch it in the early stages. This makes treating the condition easier and less painful for all involved.