Non-prescription, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, although helpful and convenient, come with an array of drawbacks and risks, such as the risk of addiction and abuse. When used long-term and in higher doses, many of these drugs can be deadly.
Because of their accessibility and affordability (compared to prescription medication), OTC medication is frequently used for a plethora of medical symptoms. Although generally safe, OTC drugs may result in health problems, adverse drug interactions and dependency.
Here’s a list of the eight commonly abused non-prescription drugs:
- Cough Syrup
Cough syrups generally contain dextromethorphan (DXM) as an active ingredient. Since cough syrups are readily available without a prescription, people may abuse them by consuming them in large quantities.
There have been reports of many people, especially teens, ingesting entire bottles of cough syrup to induce a feeling of being stoned or high. Cough syrups with acetaminophen as an active ingredient have been known to result in liver damage if consumed in large quantities.
- Asthma Inhalers
Asthma inhalers can facilitate easy breathing for people with asthma. These inhalants help keep the airways open with active ingredients, such as albuterol. Albuterol could increase blood pressure and heart rate, besides causing heart palpitations.
Laxatives help relieve constipation. But, people often misuse laxatives to promote unhealthy weight loss. People with eating disorders, in particular, use laxatives to get rid of unwanted weight, which results in digestive issues. Once the body begins to function on laxatives and starts to rely on them, it stops natural digestive enzyme production, resulting in long-term health issues.
Antacids help keep stomach acids at bay and eliminate heartburn-associated discomfort and bloating caused by stomach gases. There are many reasons why stomach acid levels may fluctuate; a commonly reported finding is stress.
Stress may result in indigestion. While antacids help calm symptoms, you must not rely on them and avoid using them regularly. Overusing antacids can hinder digestive enzyme production, i.e., enzymes responsible for digestion. Moreover, antacids may harm the digestive tract, particularly the stomach lining.
When talking about commonly abused non-prescription drugs we have to mention ephedrine. Ephedrine is a stimulant that can increase the body’s oxygen uptake. Athletes use ephedrine to enhance their performance. The misuse of this drug may result in heart problems and prove fatal when abused long-term.
- Sleeping Pills
Sleeping pills help people sleep peacefully. Although intended for occasional use, some people use sleeping pills regularly and build resistance. This resistance pushes them to consume a higher dose to maintain the same effect, a practice that may prove to be dangerous.
Acetaminophen is a medicine efficient in relieving the body of pain and fever. Although effective, acetaminophen can be very harmful when ingestion in large quantities occurs. It can cause damage to the stomach lining and irreversible liver damage.
Benadryl is an antihistamine medication that people use to get relief from itching resulting from allergies, insect bites, etc. Antihistamines may result in drowsiness and are often misused to induce sleep. In fact, the active ingredient in many OTC sleeping pills is, in fact, Benadryl.
How do OTC Meds Affect Employers?
Even OTC drugs can affect health, safety and performance. But they are not illegal, and employers really can’t test for them.
Really, the best way to deal with a potential problem is to make sure supervisors are trained in recognizing signs and symptoms of impairment and treat any problems as a safety or employee health issue.