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Over the Counter Drugs

Over-the-Counter (OTC) drugs are medicines that you can purchase OTC without a prescription, such as cough and cold remedies.  Many of these products are widely available and can be purchased at supermarkets, drugstores, and convenience stores. Many OTC drugs that are intended to treat headaches, sinus pressure, or cold/flu symptoms and contain the active ingredient dextromethorphan (DXM) and are the ones that teens are using to get high. When taken in high doses, DXM can produce a "high" feeling and can be extremely dangerous in excessive amounts.  Some drugs that people take to get the DXM high also include other ingredients which can interact in your body and have dangerous consequences. Extremely high doses of DXM can induce a hallucinatory state which can lead to "accidents" that result in death.

Short-term effects of DXM

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired physical coordination
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Drowsiness
  • Numbness of fingers and toes
  • Disorientation

Long-term effects of DXM

  • Death can occur at high enough doses,
  • DXM alone can suppress the central nervous system. If that happens your brain can stop telling your lungs to breathe.

Short-term effects of OTC stimulants

  • Impaired judgment
  • Nausea
  • Loss of coordination
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Numbness of fingers and toes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Aches
  • Seizures
  • Panic attacks
  • Psychosis
  • Euphoria
  • Cold flashes
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea.

Long-term effects of OTC stimulants

  • Addiction
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • High-blood pressure
  • Coma or even death

Where do people get them?
In many parts of the country, people can easily buy OTC cough and cold remedies at any supermarket, drugstore, or convenience store where these products are sold. They can also get them from home, or order them over the Internet. And even if they do not order OTC drugs online, they can surf the Web to find information and videos on what drugs to try and mix together.

How do teens abuse OTC drugs?
Some people take large doses to get high, sometimes mixing these drugs with prescription drugs, street drugs, or alcohol. Some crush pills and snort them for an intensified effect.

Can I overdose on OTC drugs?
Yes. The point at which people may overdose on OTC drugs varies depending on the amount of the drugs they took, over what time period, and if other drugs were mixed. Some OTC drugs are weak and cause minor distress, while others are very strong and can cause more serious problems or even death.
Other drug and alcohol interactions
Mixing alcohol with certain medications can cause nausea and vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, fainting, and loss of coordination. It can put users at risk for internal bleeding, heart problems, and difficulties in breathing. Alcohol can also decrease the effectiveness of many needed medications or make them totally ineffective.
Some of these medications can be purchased over the counter - at a drugstore or grocery store - without a prescription, including herbal remedies and others you may never have suspected of reacting negatively with alcohol.

Before you take any prescription or OTC medication, carefully read the label, and/or consult with your physician or local pharmacist. And never mix medications with alcohol.