Over the Counter (OTC) Drug Addiction, Abuse and Treatment

Abusing over-the-counter medicines or pain relievers can lead to addiction or use of more dangerous drugs down the road.

Understanding OTC (Over the Counter) Drugs

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are medications available without a prescription at drugstores or supermarkets. OTC drugs are typically safe if used at recommended doses. Like illegal and prescription drugs, they can also be abused. Although less potent, OTC drugs still pose a risk for developing an addiction.

Some commonly abused OTC medications include:

  • Cough medicines (Dextromethorphan, or DXM)
  • Cold medicines (Pseudoephedrine)
  • Motion sickness pills (Dimenhydrinate)
  • Pain relievers (Acetaminophen)

If you or someone you love is struggling with an OTC drug addiction, call now for help.

OTC Drug Abuse

OTC drugs have various medical uses and effects, treating mild pain to motion sickness, anxiety to depression.

Common OTC Abused Medications

  • Cough medicines (Dextromethorphan, or DXM) – Cough medicines can cause hallucinations and a potent high when abused. Cough medicines are popular among young people, as they’re often readily accessible in medicine cabinets at home or at a friend’s house. High doses can cause vomiting, rapid heart rate, blurred vision, shakiness, and even brain damage.
  • Cold medicines (Pseudoephedrine) – Pseudoephedrine is a stimulant and the active ingredient in many cold medicines. People may abuse pseudoephedrine for hallucinations or an intense body high. It should be noted that pseudoephedrine is also used to create illicit drugs like methamphetamine. Abusing pseudoephedrine can cause irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, dizziness and seizures.
  • Motion sickness pills (Dimenhydrinate) – Dimenhydrinate is used to treat motion sickness and vertigo. In high doses, the drug can cause hallucinations, ringing in the ears, nausea, irregular heartbeat, seizures, coma, and even death.
  • Pain relievers (Acetaminophen) – Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in pain relievers like Tylenol. High doses and long-term use can lead to serious health problems. Other side effects of acetaminophen abuse include diarrhea, sweating, nausea, and stomach pain. Acetaminophen is generally taken for its pain-relieving properties. Many abuse acetaminophen to treat chronic pain.

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Common symptoms of OTC drug withdrawal include:

  • Confusion
  • Hostility
  • Anxiety
  • Mood changes

Learning to spot an OTC drug addiction can be difficult. Some of the signs of an OTC drug addiction include continuing to use the drugs despite known consequences and spending an excessive amount of time or money using or getting them. There are 11 key criteria to diagnose an addiction to any drug.

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Get the Resources to Beat Addiction

Overcoming an OTC drug addiction can be difficult, but it is far from impossible. If you or someone you care about is struggling with an addiction to OTC drugs like dextromethorphan, let us help you find treatment and support.