Colorado substance abuse advisors

Call Our 24/7 Helpline :

(866) 300-5857

Commonly abused licit drugs: Prescription and OTC drugs

10-06 | By CSAA Team

Commonly abused licit drugs: Prescription and OTC drugs

The dangers of getting addicted to controlled drugs are well-known. However, it is also possible to get addicted to over-the-counter (OTC) drugs or certain non-controlled prescription drugs that treat medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and other bacterial infections. To an extent any medication that has psychoactive effects, i.e., mind-altering properties can be abused.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), prescription and OTC drugs are second only to marijuana and alcohol amongst substances most abused by Americans aged 14 years and older. Medications that can be abused include antipsychotics, antidepressants and skeletal muscle relaxants. Cough and cold remedies that are readily available over the counter are also often misused. This is because some of the cough preparations have constituents that create intoxicating or stimulatory effects. Though these components are small in quantity, the medicines if taken in large doses can create the desired effect of euphoria.

Common reasons for abuse

People often believe that prescription and OTC drugs are safer than illicit drugs. But the fact is these can be addictive and dangerous as well. If taken in high doses or along with other drugs or alcohol, they can put users to adverse health risk including overdose. Various factors that contribute to the abuse of OTC medications include:

  • Sharing medications: Often people consume medications prescribed for someone else without being aware of the danger of doing so. It has been observed that most people who abuse prescription drugs, source it from someone close. Sharing someone’s medication for pain to relieve one’s own and taking pills to help sleep without a doctor’s prescription are some of the ways in which addiction can begin.
  • Taking higher dosage or for reasons other than prescribed: Once someone comes to realize the effects these drugs have, he or she can misuse it. For instance, often people drink cough syrups that are known to have minor alcohol content to get high. Or a person on prescription medications may experience withdrawal symptoms or get addicted to their own medications and so start abusing it.
  • Effects of medicine abuse: A review titled “Abuse of Medications that Theoretically Are Without Abuse Potential,” published in the Southern Medical Journal in 2015 notes that though there is no conclusive evidence of widespread abuse of such medications, the plethora of internet forums that exist on discussing abuse and other uses of such drugs are proof of existence of the problem.

These medications are effective in treating mental and physical symptoms when taken under medical supervision. But using them in ways other than for the purpose intended can become problematic and pose a risk to an individual’s health. Studies show that individuals with a history of drug abuse are more inclined to misuse medications.

In absence of data and research on misuse of OTC medications, it is important that clinicians and health providers be aware of the potential for their misuse. An appreciation of this issue will help them detect addictive behavior and take remedial action. It will also ensure that they are careful about even those medicines which would not normally feature on their list of highly addictive substances. Healthcare providers should take into account an individual’s past history of drug use, health condition and other medications prescribed to them to make an accurate decision.

Addiction is curable

Getting rid of dependence on drugs is difficult, especially if the person has been addicted for a long time. Early detection can assist in speedy recovery. If you or a loved one is suffering from substance abuse and want to know about substance abuse treatment programs in Colorado, you can get in touch with the Colorado Substance Abuse Advisors. You may call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-300-5857 or chat online for information on substance abuse treatment centers in Colorado.


Request help today

Recent Posts



Call Now Button