There are a number of OTC drugs that may be abused:

  • Cold and Cough Medicines – The active ingredient dextromethorphan (DSM) is a substance that is commonly abused, particularly with the younger crowd. This ingredient is designed to minimize symptoms of a persistent cough. However, taken in higher amounts, DSM causes changes to sensory perceptions and hallucinations. Large doses can also lead to depressed nervous system function, respiratory depression and even death.
  • Diet Pills – In the quest for the “perfect” body, some teens will abuse diet pills in an effort to lose weight fast. The OTC drugs also produce a “high” that can be psychologically addictive. Unfortunately, these drugs can also lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure, and can lead to serious side effects like severe dehydration, anxiety, heart attack and death.
  • Motion Sickness Drugs – Drugs like Benadryl and Dramamine are commonly used to make travel more pleasant for children and adults alike. However, taken in higher amounts, these drugs can produce mind-altering effects that are attractive, especially for younger users. Those effects can also lead to serious side effects, including damage to vital organs like the liver, kidneys and heart.
  • Energy Pills – These OTC drugs may be attractive to the younger crowd, particularly grade-conscious students that want additional hours to study for exams or finish projects. However, overuse of these drugs can lead to anxiety, dehydration and sleep disturbances.
  • Pain Relievers – Even widely used OTC drugs like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can lead to abuse if they are not used according to recommendations. If used in excess, these drugs can result in liver, heart and kidney damage.

Are You Addicted?

Because OTC drugs are easy to find and get, they are also easy to abuse. But can you get addicted to these seemingly harmless drugs?

The truth is that some OTC drugs, like cough medicines, can indeed be addictive. Even if you don’t become hooked on your drug of choice, the likelihood of you combining your OTC drug with other substances is much greater, which can result in an overdose and dangerous side effects. Some users have actually died after misusing OTC drugs.

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