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Memory Issues Author: Staff Editor Last Updated: Oct 12, 2017 - 5:07:28 PM

The Most Abused OTC Meds

By Staff Editor
Oct 12, 2017 - 5:03:15 PM

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( - After marijuana, prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are the most commonly abused drugs by teenagers. Prescription drugs come with a doctor’s warning, but it’s tempting to think that OTC drugs are safe.

After all, if you can buy them at your local pharmacy, how bad can they be?

In truth, OTC drugs can be very dangerous for someone who is looking to get high. The following are commonly abused drugs you can buy over-the-counter at any pharmacy.

1. Dextromethorphan – This is the active ingredient in many cough syrups, and it's also the most commonly abused OTC drug, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.[G1] In large doses, dextromethorphan can cause euphoria, color and sound distortions and out of body hallucinations lasting up to 6 hours.

One out of every ten teens[G2] has admitted to using cough medicine to get high. Although it’s easy to obtain, this OTC drug has serious side effects that include impaired judgment, seizures, blurred vision, loss of muscle movement, drowsiness, increased heart rate and shallow breathing. When you combine dextromethorphan with other drugs, OTC or otherwise, the side effects may include death. [G3]

Dextromethorphan is addictive and can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including depression and confusion.

2. Laxatives – One study reported that 56.3 percent of people with eating disorders abused laxatives. People who abuse laxatives do so with the intention of losing weight, but they may not realize that laxatives don’t quite work in this way. This OTC medication does not remove calories or fat. Instead, it helps the body shed water weight, which will return after the person stops taking laxatives.

Laxatives aren’t considered addictive substances, but one may continue taking them because stopping would lead to water-weight gain and bloating. Continued laxative abuse can lead to loss of minerals, water and electrolytes, organ damage, heart failure, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and severe dehydration.

3. Pseudoephedrine – The lack of availability on store shelves is a clear sign that this OTC drug is likely to be abused. Pseudoephedrine is most notably abused in the illegal production of methamphetamines, but it can also be abused on its own.

Pseudoephedrine is the active ingredient in Sudafed and is effective at relieving congestion, but users may also experience a euphoric and stimulant-like effect. This is how it has come to be abused. Harmful effects of pseudoephedrine abuse include weakness, stomach pain, dizziness, nausea and vomiting breathing problems and irregular heartbeat.

4. Motion Sickness Pills – Motion sickness pills like Dramamine are often abused for the high they can produce. This antihistamine is safe when taken as directed, but they can become dangerous when taken in doses higher than the recommended dose. At slightly higher doses, motion sickness pills can produce euphoria and relaxation. Extreme doses can cause hallucinations similar to psychotropic drugs. Side effects of abusing motion sickness pills like Dramamine include dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, amnesia, itchy skin, eye pain, tinnitus, arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, stomach pain, depression and agitation, delirium, kidney and liver damage, and coma.

OTC drugs aren’t necessarily safe because they are available without a prescription. It’s crucial for doctors and parents to look for signs of drug addiction in their children periodically – especially before any new prescription medications are given. 



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