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.
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.
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.
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.