How Over-the-Counter Drugs Are Being Abused
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By: Harmony Staff

Clinically Reviewed by Dr. Deja Gilbert, PhD, LMHC, LPC

Updated on 03/28/2022

Unfortunately, there are more and more people abusing over-the-counter drugs than there were years ago. According to statistics, those under the age of 26 are abusing them most often. However, it is important to note that addiction doesn’t discriminate by age. This means that there are older adults and even senior citizens who are abusing over-the-counter drugs. Some kids are doing this, as well. It is because these drugs are so easy to obtain. They can get stimulants, weight-loss drugs or even motion sickness medications. Each one of these drugs can be and are abused by people of all ages.

If you or someone you know is abusing over-the-counter drugs, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Harmony Oaks Recovery team for help today. We can get you into a treatment program to help you stop abusing these drugs or any others you might be abusing, as well.

People Who Are Most Likely to Abuse OTC Drugs

People Who Are Most Likely to Abuse OTC Drugs

As noted above, younger adults are the most likely to abuse OTC drugs. However, there are other groups of people who have a higher chance of abusing these drugs, too. Everyone from children to young adults to older adults and senior citizens do abuse over-the-counter medications.

If you fall into any of these categories or you do abuse over-the-counter drugs, now is the time to reach out for help from a professional addiction treatment center. Here at Harmony Oaks Recovery, we can help you to stop using/abusing these drugs and get your life back to a healthier state.

Abuse of Cold/Cough Medications

There are a variety of medications sold over-the-counter that people can and often do abuse. One subset of these drugs is cold/cough medications. These often have an antitussive in them which is the cough suppressant. They also have dextromethorphan which is also known as DXM to those who abuse it. These two things are dangerous to abuse.

Some of the common cold/cough medications that people are abusing include:

  • Vicks Formula 44
  • Robitussin
  • NyQuil
  • DayQuil

No matter which over-the-counter cough/cold medications someone is abusing, they can get help to stop using the drug and get into recovery. There are numerous treatment programs that can help you to work through your addictive habits, personal use with these drugs and other addiction-related issues, too.

In regard to DXM abuse, many younger people are abusing the substance for its psychoactive effects. These effects will differ depending on the person’s tolerance and how much of the drug they are taking, too. When taken properly, there are few side effects to DXM. However, when someone takes it in a large dose more often, they are likely to experience a range of effects such as lightheadedness, nausea, dizziness, nodding in and out, hallucinations and more.

Effects Based on Dosage of Cough/Cold Medication Abuse

Effects Based on Dosage of Cough/Cold Medication Abuse

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration or the DEA, there are certain effects that are likely to occur at various dosages of cough/cold medications.

There are many other serious side effects that can happen when someone abuses DXM such as kidney and liver damage, brain damage and addiction. If you are dealing with these effects right now, don’t hesitate to let our team know. We have doctors, nurses and other medical staff on hand to help manage these conditions while you are overcoming the addiction to OTC drugs.

Dealing with Withdrawal from DXM

When quitting the use of many drugs, people will experience withdrawal symptoms. Studies show that people don’t generally have significant withdrawal symptoms when coming off DXM. However, those who were abusing this drug for an extended period of time might have some psychological or emotional issues if they quit cold turkey.

Statistics Regarding Cough Medication Abuse

Did you know that around 10% of teens have abused some kind of cough medication in their life?

Did you know the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA, states there is an increase recently in the number of ER visits due to DXM abuse?

These are just a couple of statistics regarding cough medication abuse. If you or someone you love has been abusing cough medications, don’t hesitate to let our Harmony Oaks Recovery team help you get clean from this drug starting today.

Other Over-the-Counter Drugs Being Abused

Other Over-the-Counter Drugs Being Abused

There are some other over-the-counter drugs that are being abused, as well. Some of the most commonly abused over-the-counter drugs are stimulants, pain relievers and motion sickness medications.

Abuse of Stimulant

Did you know there are range of stimulants that are being abused every day? There are even some children who are abusing these drugs.

Stimulants are found in a variety of OTC products such as decongestants, herbal formulas, energy drinks and diet pills. Some of the diet pills include herbal substances, mild stimulants and appetite suppressants.

Over-the-counter weight loss medications may not even be as effective as people want them to be, so they abuse them, hoping to get better effects on their weight loss goals. The problem is that stimulants act as a blocker for fatigue and sleep, keeping the person awake for much longer. Many people like this and can quickly become addicted to OTC weight loss or other stimulant drugs. Statistics show that around 6% of younger females and around 4% of younger males have abused OTC weight loss medications at some point in their life. Other research suggests that people with eating disorders are more likely to abuse weight loss medications.

When someone wants to lose weight quickly, they may abuse the OTC weight loss medications or herbal supplements. The problem is that the side effects can be so addicting, it can be difficult for the person to stop abusing these drugs. If this is the case for you, you can reach out to our Harmony Oaks Recovery team today for help in treating this addiction.

Physical Issues Caused by Stimulants

If you or someone you know are abusing stimulants, there are some physical issues that may be present, as well. Some of these issues might include:

  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Dehydration
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Other psychological symptoms
  • Addiction
  • Euphoria
  • Increased energy
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Seizures

As you can see, the side effects of these medications are dangerous. In some cases, the reactions can be fatal. It is crucial to learn as much as you can about the abuse of over-the-counter medications such as stimulants. The more you can learn about the side effects and dangers of abusing these medications, the more likely you might be to get into a treatment program if you are not taking these drugs properly. If you know someone else that is abusing these drugs, you can help them to get into a treatment program, so they can stop abusing stimulant drugs, too.

More About Stimulant Intoxication

Another thing that you may need to learn more about is stimulant intoxication. This occurs when your body is overwhelmed by stimulant drugs. There are many different side effects that can come about when intoxicated by stimulants such as:

  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Malaise
  • Muscle twitching
  • Restlessness
  • Nervousness
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Irritability

It should also be known that energy drinks often have ingredients that aren’t approved by the FDA or other government agencies. This means there can be some very harmful and dangerous ingredients in these cans. In addition, many people drink a minimum of one energy drink per day. Some people have many more than that. The more energy drinks someone drinks, the worse the side effects are likely to be.

Abusing Over-the-Counter Pain Medications

There are numerous over-the-counter pain medications that people are abusing, as well. The primary reason they abuse these drugs is due to the euphoria and other psychoactive properties they cause.

Unfortunately, there are millions of people who struggle with chronic pain. Sometimes, the pain is from conditions such as fibromyalgia and other times it is due to ones like degenerative disc disease. No matter why someone is abusing pain medications, though, the dangers are still the same. Some of these dangers include:

  • Cardiovascular health issues
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
  • Memory loss

Even if you are already experiencing some of these effects, it would be a good idea to get into treatment as soon as you can. The sooner you enter a treatment program to get clean from these drugs, the sooner you can, hopefully, get your life back to normal.

Abuse of Motion Sickness Drugs

Have you ever heard of someone abusing motion sickness drugs? These drugs, such as Benadryl, contain diphenhydramine or dimenhyrdrinate. There are numerous cases reported in which users will take a high dose of these types of drugs for their psychoactive effects such as sedation and euphoria.

It is vital to know that taking a high dose of motion sickness drugs can lead to seizures, a heart attack or even a coma. It can also lead to organ damage, depression, various cognitive problems and numerous other health conditions.

If you have been abusing motion sickness drugs, now is the time to reach out for help from our Harmony Oaks Recovery team. We are here to help you get clean from these drugs or any others that you might be abusing. From the detox process to the end of your treatment program and into aftercare, our team can help you turn your life around.

Getting Treatment for Over-the-Counter Drug Abuse

Types of Treatment Programs for OTC Drug Abuse

If you do have an addiction to over-the-counter drugs, there are many treatment options that can help you to overcome that addiction. Learning more about these treatment options can help you to know what to expect when you call us here at Harmony Oaks Recovery Center.

In addition to the treatment options, there are numerous services that can help you within these treatment programs. Some of these services include:

  • 12 step facilitation therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Trauma Recovery/EMDR therapy
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Yoga
  • Adventure therapy

The services you receive will vary based on your history with over-the-counter drug abuse, how many other drugs you abuse, how severe your addiction is and based on some other factors, too.

If you have been abusing these drugs, don’t hesitate to let our team know. We are all here to help you get clean and into recovery – starting from the first phone call you make to our team.

Get Help Today to Start Overcoming OTC Drug Abuse

There are numerous over-the-counter drugs that people can and often do abuse. If you or someone you know abuses OTC drugs, don’t wait any longer before you contact a professional rehab center such as Harmony Oaks Recovery.

Here at our treatment center, you will find a caring, compassionate and helpful team of trained addiction recovery professionals. Each member of our team is able to help you navigate the recovery process. We know that overcoming an addiction to any drug can be difficult. However, from the first phone call you make to our team, you will see that we want to be here for you every step of the way.

Whether you are abusing stimulants, weight loss medications, motion sickness pills or any other OTC drugs, our team can get you into a treatment program that would work best for you. The treatment program may be inpatient, outpatient, intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization. It all depends on your specific set of circumstances.

When you enter into the treatment program, the exact services you receive can vary based on the length of your treatment, what program you are in, how severe your addiction is and what type of help you need. The services might include things such as yoga all the way to individual and group therapy.

If you have an addiction to over-the-counter drugs, don’t wait any longer to reach out to our Harmony Oaks Recovery team. We are ready to help you detox from over-the-counter drugs and into recovery starting today. The process might be a long one, but with the right type of support (such as from our trained professionals), a structured treatment program and all the right recovery resources, you can finally overcome the OTC drug addiction.

Contact us today to start overcoming over-the-counter drug abuse.

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