Over The Counter (OTC) Medication Abuse Introduction
Over The Counter, (OTC) medications are those that can be obtained without a prescription from a physical to treat common ailments. OTC medications can treat many ailments including headache, common cold, allergies, heartburn, and muscle ache. OTC medications are usually safe, but when taken in higher doses than recommended they can pose a risk for health complications, drug interactions, and addiction.
Over The Counter (OTC) Medication Abuse
OTC medication abuse can develop due to many reasons. Abuse is often intentional. However, misuse of OTC medication can occur because of improper self-diagnosis, inappropriate dosage, unnecessarily prolonged use, lack of knowledge on the risk factors, and absence of professional help.
Types Of OTC Drugs That Are Abused
1. Dextromethorphan (DXM) - Cough Medicine Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a common drug used to relieve cough that is associated with the common cold. DXM is an ingredient in several over the counter medications that are used to treat allergies, cold, and flu. DXM is often abused by youngsters and it’s psychoactive effects differ from person to person based on different biological features. DXM has few side effects when taken at the recommended dose, however, when it's taken frequently and at higher doses, it causes psychoactive symptoms. When abused DXM can lead to; • Stimulant effects -100-200mg of DXM • Euphoria and visual hallucinations - 200-400mg • Problems with balance and motor coordination and difficulty with visual perception - 300-600mg • Sedation, significant hallucinations, dissociative symptoms - over 600mg Apart from these, DXM abuse can lead to liver toxicity as it is often sold with acetaminophen and brain damage.
2. Pseudoephedrine (Cold Medicine) Pseudoephedrine is sold over the counter as a decongestant for temporary relief of sinus congestion due to cold or allergies. The sale of pseudoephedrine is now monitored since it is often used as an ingredient to produce methamphetamine illegally. Pseudoephedrine can produce a short term feeling of euphoria and stimulant effect with increased energy. In the long term, it can lead to the development of; • cardiovascular problems • irregular heartbeat • hallucinations • seizures
3. Dimenhydrinate (Motion sickness pills) Dimenhydrinate is sold over the counter to treat motion sickness and vertigo. The symptoms associated with dimenhydrinate depend on the individual's metabolism and body weight. Dimenhydrinate is abused for psychoactive effects such as mild euphoria and sedation associated. When abused in high doses it can lead to hallucinations, nausea, irregular heartbeats, seizures, ringing in ears, even coma and death. Long-term abuse can lead to liver and kidney toxicity, depression, and other problems associated with cognition.
Other drugs often abused
4. Analgesics - Aspirin and Acetaminophen
5. Laxatives - Sodium Phosphate laxatives
6. Codeine containing analgesics such as ibuprofen Managing OTC Drug Abuse The abuse of Over The Counter Medications is rare. However, since it is mostly abused by teenagers and youngsters, it poses a risk for society. OTC drug abuse may lead to abuse and addiction to other more addictive drugs later on in life. The primary method of prevention is education. Educating teenagers at school and parents is important.
1- Sansgiry, S. S., Bhansali, A. H., Bapat, S. S., & Xu, Q. (2016). Abuse of over-the-counter medicines: a pharmacist's perspective. Integrated pharmacy research & practice, 6, 1–6. https:// doi.org/10.2147/IPRP.S103494 2- 2020. [online] Available at: <https://www.mdlinx.com/article/most-commonly-abused-over-the-counterdrugs/lfc-3783> [Accessed 22 November 2020].
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