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8 Common Over-the-Counter Medicines Abused by Teenagers and Adults

Posted: January 10, 2015 by in Care Addiction Rehabilitation


Some medications can be bought over-the-counter (OTC) without a prescription from a doctor. It is generally believed that over-the-counter medicines are safer than prescription medicines and illegal street drugs. Non-prescription medicines are in fact safe and effective when taken as directed, but even OTC medicines can have severe and possibly deadly side effects when taken improperly.

Most OTC medicine abuse can be attributed to teenagers between 13 to 19 years old. Some teens are curious about the side effects of these medications if taken inappropriately, while others are seeking an alternative, inexpensive high. Since these drugs are easily available, right in their family’s medicine cabinet, it’s not difficult for them to experiment. But young adults who experiment with OTC medicines are likely to try other experiments, like combing multiple kinds of medicine, alcoholic beverages, and illegal drugs, all of which puts their lives at risk.

The following are list of Top 8 common medicines currently abused by teens and adults:

Dextromethorphan (DXM) – A cough suppressant and expectorant (agent which dissolves thick mucus from the respiratory tract). It is sold as a syrup, tablet, spray, and lozenges. DXM can create powerful psychedelic effects if taken illicitly at high dosages.

Pseudoephedrine (PSE) – Sold commonly as sprays and inhalers. It is used to relieve nasal/sinus congestion. Pseudoephedrine can be used for manufacturing methamphetamine and methcathinone.

Anti-Allergens – Improper use of anti-allergens can cause hallucination, seizures, and can even lead to death.

Pain relievers – Drugs such as Codeine, OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin (slang) can cause euphoria.

Caffeine medicines – Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant that effects the central nervous systemIt gives temporary mental and physical alertness, and a boost of energy. Too much caffeine can cause dehydration, palpitations, and nervousness.

Diet pills – These OTC medicines are highly addictive and may lead to eating disorders. They typically contain caffeine, ephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine, which are all very addictive substances. Diet pill abuse may cause insomnia, vomiting, headache, cardiac arrest, and death.

Motion sickness pills – Containing dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl). These OTC medicines help to prevent the symptoms of travel sickness or motion sickness, such as dizziness and nausea when traveling by bus, boat or airplane. Large doses of these OTC medicines may cause hallucinations, irregular heartbeat, and death.

Sexual performance medicines – These OTC medicines can cause headaches, weight loss, and heart problems, especially when combined with alcohol and energy drinks, or when taken in large doses.

These days, OTC drugs are some of the most frequently abused substances, used by teens and adults because they are easy to obtain.  For some it’s just curios experimentation, while some they use it as an alternative for illegal drugs because it is cheaper and easier to acquire. Is someone in your life struggling with this kind of drug abuse? Help them stop using and abusing non-prescription medications by asking them to go to addiction services to receive their addiction recovery program.

Remember, OTC medicines are safe to use when you follow package directions, but not okay when abused improperly. Some teens and adults think that it is safer to get high from OTC drugs, but it can lead to death. All these drugs have the potential to cause addiction but it is not too late. If you or someone you know is hooked on non-prescription drugs, just ask for help or check out some substance abuse centers for more information.

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1 Comment
  1. Renetta Jesko

    I appreciate your work , thankyou for all the interesting posts .