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Over the counter drug abuse

Over-the-counter drug abuse is pretty common among drug users in general but is most common in teens. Over-the-counter drug abuse is appealing to teens because the drugs that they use to get high are widely available and totally legal. Many OTC (over-the-counter) drugs don’t require you to be any specific age to buy either. Here are some of the most common substances that are a part of over-the-counter drug abuse.

Over-the-counter drug abuse: DXM

The most common and queen bee of OTC drugs is dextromethorphan (DXM). DXM is the active ingredient in many nonprescription cough and cold medicines. Those products are safe when taken as recommended, but very large doses can lead to euphoria and impaired judgment — as well as nausea and vomiting, loss of coordination, and increased heart rate. DXM’s street names include “Orange Crush,” “Triple Cs,”  “Dex,” “Robo,” and “Skittles.” When combined with alcohol or other drugs, a large dose can lead to death. For example, Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold includes both dextromethorphan to treat a cough and chlorpheniramine to treat a runny nose. But chlorpheniramine alone abuse by itself has led to numerous deaths and hospitalizations. Dextromethorphan is also addictive and can cause withdrawal symptoms, including depression and difficulty processing thoughts, when the abuse stops. Not much is known about long-term abuse, but cases of bone marrow and nerve cell damage, high blood pressure, heart damage, and permanent brain damage have been reported.

Over-the-counter drug abuse: Pseudoephedrine

Pseudoephedrine is commonly found in nonprescription cold medicines. It’s used as an ingredient for making the illegal drug methamphetamine (“meth”). That’s why there are laws limiting the amount of pseudoephedrine-containing drug products that can be bought at a time. Abuse may be less common with pseudoephedrine than with other OTC medicines due to a federal law requiring it to be kept behind the pharmacy counter, limiting the purchase quantity, and requiring photo identification prior to purchase. However, people have taken pseudoephedrine to lose weight, and athletes have misused the medicine to increase their state of awareness and to get them “pumped up” before a competition. Dangerous side effects include heart palpitations, irregular heartbeats, and heart attacks. When combined with other drugs, such as narcotics, pseudoephedrine may trigger episodes of paranoid psychosis.

Over-the-counter drug abuse: Motion sickness pills

Motion sickness pills that contain dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl) taken in large doses can cause one to feel high and have hallucinations similar to street drugs. The dose needed to cause these symptoms varies widely according to body weight and tolerance. Some teens and adults may take as many as 40 pills of Dramamine, for example, to experience the desired high. Extremely high doses of Dramamine have caused dangerous irregular heartbeats, coma, heart attacks, and death. Long-term abuse can cause depression, liver and kidney damage, memory loss, eye pain, itchy skin, urine retention, and abdominal pain.

Over-the-counter drug abuse: Laxatives and herbal diuretics

Like diet pills, some teens and young adults also abuse OTC laxatives and herbal diuretics (water pills), including uva-ursa, golden seal, dandelion root, rose hips, and others, to lose weight. Laxatives and herbal diuretics can cause serious dehydration and life-threatening loss of important minerals and salts that regulate the amount of water in the body, acidity of the blood, and muscle function.

OTC drug abuse can be highly dangerous especially when mixing over-the-counter drugs with other substances. Anyone who is active in over-the-counter drug abuse is probably on a path if not already on one towards heavier drug abuse too so be aware.

If you or your loved one is in need of treatment for over-the-counter drug abuse please give us a call at 800-951-6135.


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