Abuse of Over the Counter Medications
Published: 2013-09-16 - Updated: 2021-08-30
Author: Thomas C. Weiss | Contact: Disabled World (Disabled-World.com)
Synopsis: Information regarding the dangerous trend of over the counter medication abuse today. Hospitals across America have reported dozens of over the counter drug overdoses in the past few years, to include some fatalities involving the abuse of over the counter drugs. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has classified DXM as a, 'drug of concern,' because if it is misused it can be highly dangerous. There are no legal restrictions on the purchasing of this drug.
A growing and unfortunate trend today involves the abuse of over the counter medications. Within the entire population of those who abuse over the counter medications the largest segment represented are adolescents. There are many different reasons teenagers choose to abuse over the counter medications.
One of the biggest reasons that teenagers are choosing to abuse these types of medications is because they are considered to be, 'safer,' than drugs that are illegal. Many teenagers use over the counter drugs to get high or to help them stay awake while they are studying. Over the counter drug abuse is not considered to be an issue to most teenagers, yet every time someone takes a medication - whether it is over the counter or not, other than in the way it is intended to be used it is drug abuse.
Chart showing beliefs about over the counter drug abuse
The perception is that over the counter drug abuse is not dangerous because these medications are readily available. Over the counter drugs are sold openly in stores and the parents of teenagers have them at some point in their homes and have even administered them to their children. Over the counter drug abuse is very dangerous and may be just as dangerous, if not more so, than using illegal drugs.
Among the most abused over the counter drugs include cough and cold medications. Over the counter drug abuse is very popular among younger teenagers between the ages of 13-16. Hospitals across America have reported dozens of over the counter drug overdoses in the past few years, to include some fatalities involving the abuse of over the counter drugs. The most commonly abused medications include:
- Vicks Formula 44
- Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold Tablets
All of these over the counter medications contain a chemical known as, 'dextromethorphan (DXM).' DXM is found in greater than 50% of all prescription and non-prescription cough and cold drugs. Teenagers have a number of nicknames for DXM such as:
- Triple C's
- Vitamin D
Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold Tablets contain far more potent doses of DXM than cough syrups and teenagers do not need to drink a whole bottle of foul tasting cough syrup. Instead, they can easily and conveniently take pills containing DXM in order to obtain a high. Compared to more expensive illegal drugs, DXM costs only a few dollars. There is also a large amount of information on the Internet about how much DXM it takes to get high and teenagers can easily find this information.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has classified DXM as a, 'drug of concern,' because if it is misused it can be highly dangerous. There are no legal restrictions on the purchasing of this drug. The manufacturers of DXM have expressed sympathy about concerns regarding the abuse of DXM, yet have resisted efforts to restrict access to the drug...
DXM is a synthetic drug that is chemically similar to morphine; it has been added to cold medications and cough syrups since the year 1970. DXM overdoses commonly happen in clusters, as word of mouth spreads through community middle and high schools. Growing concerns about DXM have led some stores and drugstores to restrict access to products containing DXM and to limit the amount a person can buy at one time.
Unfortunately, DXM is not the only over the counter drug teenagers are abusing. Other drugs include sleep aids, diet pills and motion sickness drugs. Some teenagers use large amounts of diet pills while trying to lose weight rapidly, even as others take them to get high. Diet pills are not meant for teenagers because they contain potentially dangerous ingredients.
Motion sickness pill like Dramamine are being abused by teenagers. If taken in large doses the drug can cause hallucinations. Sleep aids such as Excedrin PM, Tylenol PM, or Sominex may cause extreme drowsiness when they are abused. Extreme drowsiness can be an issue and may lead to Narcolepsy, a condition that is characterized by short sleep episodes and sudden and abrupt weakness in a person's legs and arms. Sleep aids may also produce a stimulant effect in other people and disrupt a person's regular sleep pattern.
Abuse of over the counter drugs can be very dangerous and result in overdose or even death. Parents need to be aware of the dangers and any possible abuse of these drugs. The effects of over the counter medication abuse can include:
- Slurred speech
- Visual hallucinations
- High blood pressure
- Physical dependence
- Liver and brain damage
When mixed with other drugs, cough syrup may also cause heart and central nervous system issues. If these over the counter drugs are combined with alcohol, it is especially dangerous and may result in the person's death.
Facts Concerning Over the Counter Drug Abuse
- 40% of teenagers feel that over the counter drugs are safer than illegal ones
- 55% of teenagers do not feel that it is risky to use cough medicine to get high
- 10% of teenagers have reported abusing cough medications in order to get high
- Teenagers who have abused over the counter medications are more likely to have used illegal drugs
- 31% of teenagers agree that using over the counter drugs and prescription drugs is okay once in a while
- Over the counter abuse admissions to drug treatment centers increased more than 30% between 1993-2003
- Only one-third of parents have reported talking about the risks of using over the counter drugs with their children
- Teenagers are familiar with brand names of a number of over the counter medications and can describe their effects
Preventing Over the Counter Drug Abuse
Teenagers who learn about the risks of drugs at home are 50% less likely to use drugs. Parents should educate themselves and then discuss over the counter drug abuse with their children. It is important to make sure teenagers understand there is no safe over the counter drug abuse. Parents need to know which over the counter drugs teenagers can abuse and limit access to them in their homes.
Parents need to track the amounts of over the counter drugs they have in their medicine cabinets and know how their teenagers are using them. Parents need to look for empty bottles or blister packs of cold medications and cough syrup in backpacks, dresser drawers, cars, and trash cans. Be aware if your teenager is taking over the counter medication when they seem to be physically well.
An over the counter drug abuse problem is a drug abuse problem and needs to be handles as such. Treatment for over the counter drug abuse should always be under the care of a doctor or a licensed substance abuse treatment program. No one should ever attempt to treat over the counter drug abuse on their own or without professional assistance.
The first steps in approaching an over the counter drug abuse issue is to first speak with your child and express your concerns in a non-accusatory manner. Seek treatment options through your family doctor, your teenager's school counselor, or the mental health division of your local public health department.
Thomas C. Weiss is a researcher and editor for Disabled World. Thomas attended college and university courses earning a Masters, Bachelors and two Associate degrees, as well as pursing Disability Studies. As a Nursing Assistant Thomas has assisted people from a variety of racial, religious, gender, class, and age groups by providing care for people with all forms of disabilities from Multiple Sclerosis to Parkinson's; para and quadriplegia to Spina Bifida.
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Cite This Page (APA): Thomas C. Weiss. (2013, September 16). Abuse of Over the Counter Medications. Disabled World. Retrieved January 21, 2022 from www.disabled-world.com/medical/pharmaceutical/addiction/ocm.php