Abusing OTC (Over-the-Counter) Drugs 

  • By Aaron Mills
  • 07 Dec, 2017

The drugs lurking inside your medicine cabinet 

A lot of people are abusing prescription drugs , and have been for a long time. Most of these people aren’t even young adults. In fact, the latest reports cite that middle aged people are most likely to abuse prescription drugs. We’ve covered a lot of different views on prescription drugs and drug addiction, but something that is often swept under the rug is the widespread abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Here, we’re going to take a look at some of the common OTC drugs that teens are abusing, so you can be aware of the dangers that may be lurking in your medicine cabinet.

DXM (Dextromethorphan)

Dextromethorphan (DXM) is the most commonly abused over-the-counter drug. It’s a cough suppressant and expectorant, which means it helps remove mucus from your respiratory system. Many people use it to treat their colds, sinus congestion, coughs, runny noses, sneezing, itchy throat, and watery eyes caused by allergies, the common cold, hay fever, or even influenza (the flu). DXM is completely legal and approved by the FDA, and most people take it regularly with no issues.

Teens who abuse it are usually taking far more than the directed amount, and often combining it with other drugs. It is said that taking enough DXM will allow you to experience hallucinations, altered perception of time, and a heightened perceptual awareness. It’s commonly combined with alcohol and acetaminophen (another OTC drug), but has been known to be combined with hallucinogens such as LSD and mushrooms, as well as MDMA (ecstasy) on occasion, to heighten the effects. The truth is, most people just experience a stomach ache with nausea, and usually end up throwing the pills back up in a short period of time.

Other than stomach ache and nausea, there are more side effects that are much more dangerous. Prolonged use can cause a level of addiction, as well as insomnia, dysphoria, and toxic psychosis, which is a mental condition where you lose contact with reality and live the rest of your life in a perpetually confused state of consciousness. Other physiological and behavioral problems have been known to stem from habitual DXM abuse.

Diet pills

It’s debatable that all diet pill use is abuse unless prescribed by a doctor, but that’s a discussion for another post. We’ll be discussing serious amounts of diet pill abuse, which commonly leads to addiction. Many diet pills are legal to buy and sell, but only one is approved by the FDA for long term use. Generally, diet pills either decrease your appetite, prevent your body from absorbing calories and fat, or increase your metabolism so that you burn fat much faster than you normally would. They usually contain ephedrine, caffeine, and herbal stimulants, which are frequently addictive substances, and also come with severe side effects to those who develop an addiction to the diet pills.

The diet pills most commonly abused are ones that claim appetite suppression, and are amphetamine-like drugs. People who abuse them say they feel euphoria and increased stamina, as well as the weight loss claimed on the package.

Diet pills often come with side effects such as depression, anxiety, paranoia, and memory loss. They also frequently lead to insomnia, headaches, diarrhea, heart palpitations, changes in your menstrual cycle, changes in your sex drive, congestive heart failure, respiratory failure, and stroke. Psychologically, you’ll feel the aforementioned anxiety and depression, as well as mood swings and low self esteem.

Other diet pill-like OTC drugs that are abused are laxatives and diuretics. These are more recent additions to the diet pill abuse list, thanks to people on websites like Tumblr, who promote a lifestyle dubbed “thinspo” (short for thinspiration), where they tell each other to take laxatives and diuretics to flush any food they consume before their bodies absorb the calories. These are very dangerous habits that will lead to malnutrition and a loss of bowel control.


Acetaminophen is an OTC painkiller that is very popular for headaches and other pains. It’s commonly seen as Tylenol, however it’s found in many other painkillers as well. It’s widely available and pretty cheap compared to other OTC medicines, and it’s available to people under 18 in some places.

Acetaminophen is commonly used to treat aches and pains, and as a fever reducer. You can pick it up at any drug store in name brands such as Tylenol or in generic brands, usually branded by the store you’re finding it in. People claim to have received states of euphoria while taking more than the recommended amount, but it takes a lot more of the recommended amount to get to that point, and it’s extremely dangerous to consume that much acetaminophen.

The side effects of taking too much acetaminophen include stomach ulcers and permanent liver damage. In fact, acetaminophen is the leading cause of liver failure in the United States, even more than alcohol.

What can we do to stop it?

First, be aware that it’s a problem. Many people, and not just teens, are abusing OTC drugs. While some of it is just experimenting, some of it is also addiction. When I was a teenager, some of my fellow high school students were taking “triple c’s”, which was just medicine labeled for “cold, cough, and congestion”. Some of them developed other drug and alcohol habits, while others had no issues.

The next step is to end the negative stigmas of addiction. If someone you love is suffering from addictio n, it’s not going to help to kick them out or insult them about it. Addiction is a disease and they need help.

The third step is to help people who are habitually abusing OTC drugs by getting them the professional help they desperately need. Anyone who’s abusing them this often is clearly addicted and needs to pursue recovery with the assistance of a trained and licensed clinical professional.

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By Jenny Hunt 22 Jan, 2018
So often I talk about the big blessings of sobriety – great job, great life, great friends, great relationship with my family, and that feeling of inner peace and contentment. Sometimes I forget about the little things. Little things that were so out of my reach in addiction, I didn’t even believe they were possible. So here are some of those things, in no particular order:
By Jodi MacNeal 22 Jan, 2018
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By Jodi MacNeal 20 Jan, 2018
Two days after the 1986 NBA draft, No. 2 pick Len Bias was dead of cardiac arrest after of a cocaine overdose.

Len Bias: Best player Maryland had ever seen (maybe the best Maryland player ever, depending on how you feel about Juan Dixon). The future of the Celtics. About to sign an endorsement deal with Reebok. Life was perfect.

Cocaine killed that. He was 22.

Bias hadn’t left home to play college ball; he was a home-grown talent who came up just outside D.C. and played ball in Maryland so he wouldn’t have to leave his family. He had a future as wide-open and promising as any kid, ever. Already a star, a freak of athletic power and poise, he might have changed the world of professional basketball. He’d fueled the dreams of a thousand city kids who wanted to play like him, be him. He swaggered, Len Bias did. His opponents couldn’t fathom him: “He’d jump and his knees would be in my teeth.” He dunked on guys, whether he needed to or not, just because he could. Len Bias could fly.

And then cocaine ended him.

Here’s how it went down: Bias and three buddies were snorting coke in a dorm room, suite 1103 in Washington Hall. Bias did a line, tried to get up, fell back on the bad and lapsed into seizure. One guy held his legs. Another one put the handle of a pair of scissors in Bias’s mouth, to keep him from biting his own tongue. The third somehow called 911 and mumbled, over and over, that his friend was in trouble. Kept saying his friend’s name, even when the emergency operator told him it didn’t matter. “This is Len Bias. You have to get him back to life. There’s no way he can die.”

But drugs don’t differentiate. Substance use, abuse and addiction have attacked athletes across the spectrum of sport.

By Emily Johanson 18 Jan, 2018
If a stranger in a gas station parking lot asks this question, it’s easy to assume what’s going on.

“Nope. I’m fine.”

“You sure?”

“Yep, thanks.”

After working a full day, then sitting through a 4-hour class, the last thing I was in the mood for was to be pestered by a drug dealer at 11 p.m. All I wanted was to get my Marlboro Smooths and go home.

As I got into my car, annoyed by the fact that I had to start it with pliers (broken car keys aren’t worth the $200 replacement), something told me to stop.

I reversed, and rolled down my window next to the mysterious black Toyota.

“What are you selling?”

He told me that he had whatever I needed: Weed, percs, Xanax, heroin, flakka, oxies, you name it.

Addiction was too close to home to keep from speaking up.

“Do you realize what you’re doing? Do you realize what you’re selling?”

He was silent for a minute, staring at me. After what felt like eternity looking into this man’s eyes, I decided that I had the freedom to continue. What else do I say? I began to tell some of my story. I served him my heart on a silver platter.

“You don’t have to do this. There are other ways to make money.”

He looked down in shame. I encouraged him to take a few of my Desert Rose company cards in case he knew someone who needed help. He got out of his car, took the cards from my hand and stood there, shaking his head. With tears in his eyes, he said, “They’re for me.”

I sat there with this guy for 45 minutes while he poured out his heart and story.

Gary told me he’s 49 years old, works on classic cars by day, and sells drugs by night for extra money. He has a beautiful son who he loves with all of his heart. When he removed his hat and pulled his shirt collar aside, his bald head and IV port revealed his personal nightmare: Gary was also fighting stage four colon cancer. He made it clear that his cancer was not an excuse for his behavior, or for his personal drug use.

I was caught off guard when Gary squeezed my hands and began to pray. He prayed against forces of the enemy. He prayed for blessing over my life. He prayed protection and favor over his son. For himself, he prayed for wisdom and strength to do the next right thing.

As he walked back to his car, he turned around and said, “It’s time for me to go home and kiss my son good night. Thank you for reminding me of what’s important.”

Every day, we pass people by, like they’re just part of the scenery. We have absolutely no clue what kind of story, beauty, and pain lie beneath the surface.

If you're in pain, please know we understand and we're ready to help. Call us today at (844) 338-5587. 
By Jodi MacNeal 18 Jan, 2018
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How do you carry your recovery into the world? Do you pin it on daily, like a badge of honor? Do you bring it out just for special occasions, or do you keep it well and truly hidden?

Last month, a longtime acquaintance told me (in slightly hushed tones) that he’s in recovery. 

I was glad that I didn't hear any traces of shame or guilt in his voice. His long-ago drinking and drug use? It’s just the life he was living at the time. He’s not afraid of being judged, or of any stigma attached to substance abuse and recovery.

It’s just that he’s moved on. He’s private about being in recovery and it’s not particularly relevant to the life he's achieved – husband, father, business owner, artist, athlete. He sponsors people, even quietly mentions that he’s a former addict when he thinks it might help somebody. He probably won’t bring it up with his kids unless they ask him point-blank, once they’re old enough to understand. It’s a crazy-healthy way to be.

For some people, declaring their recovery to the world is a part of staying clean. It gives them a sense of identity and a tribe – their own #MeToo community. They’re vocal, active, engaged. These are the folks going into the prisons, leading the meetings, talking to groups of high school students and their parents. Walking though recovery means talking about recovery. They have no secrets.

Then there are others who’ve closed and locked the door. The subject is not open for discussion, and if you happen to touch upon it, everybody’s going to feel a little uncomfortable for a while. This happened to me not long ago, with a pastor friend. Trying to find a way to refuse a glass of prosecco I offered, he made a joke about being an overachiever in everything – including, at one time, drinking. He made his point in a way that made it clear that was all he was planning to say on the matter. His right, and I respect that.

It seems to me that there are a million ways to navigate long-term recovery. What’s your way?
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