Substance abuse is not always related to the use of prescription or illicit substances. Over-the-counter, or OTC, drugs can also be dangerous when they are used in an inappropriate manner.
Setting up a crisis intervention for a loved one who is abusing an OTC medication can help you understand the way that OTC drugs are abused, the perceptions that may prevent a loved one from seeking treatment and the dangers associated with the substance.
OTC Drug Use and Abuse
When over-the-counter medications are used in an appropriate manner, they can help reduce pain or symptoms of a specific illness. OTC drugs can be used safely if an individual follows the instructions on the bottle; however, there are dangers that may arise when an OTC medication is misused.
According to Medscape, almost 6 percent of high school seniors admit to using over-the-counter medications in a way that deviates from the instructions. Although there is some variation of cold medicine abuse among different demographics, many high school students have abused the medication in an attempt to get high.
Perceptions of OTC Medication Safety
The public perception about the safety of over-the-counter medications can play a role in the possibility of developing an addiction to the drugs. Medscape explains that teenagers may abuse OTC drugs with the mistaken idea that they are safe. Since the drugs are available without a prescription and are often found in a medicine cabinet, many individuals assume that there are no dangers associated with the misuse and abuse of the drugs.
According to the University of Minnesota, there is even a belief that over-the-counter medications are safe during pregnancy and that it will not harm the individual taking the medication or an unborn fetus. The National Institutes on Health explain that many individuals believe that OTC drugs are safer than prescriptions or illicit substances. Unfortunately, there are dangers that are related to the misuse and abuse of OTC drugs.
The University of Rochester states that the abuse of over-the-counter medications can result in liver damage, kidney damage, bleeding in the stomach, difficulty sleeping, constipation and heartburn. There is also a possibility of developing a physical dependence and addiction to the substance. The signs of an addiction to over-the-counter medications can include:
- Changes To Personal Hygiene Habits
- Lack of Interest in School, Work, or Other Responsibilities
- Changes to Eating Habits
- Changes to Sleeping Habits
- Isolation From Loved Ones
- Withdrawal Symptoms When The Substance Is Discontinued
There are dangers that are associated with OTC medications. Recognizing the potential to become addicted to the substance can be the first step of helping a loved one seek appropriate treatment.
Crisis Intervention and Focus on Dangers
During a crisis intervention for over-the-counter medications, it is important to focus on the risks and dangers associated with OTC drugs. Your child, friend or family member may not realize that the medications are dangerous when they are abused.
Since there is a perception that the drugs are safe, you may need to explain why the abuse of an OTC pain reliever, sleep aid or even cold medication is dangerous. You will need to point out the symptoms that your loved one is exhibiting and provide details about the physical and emotional risks that develop when the drug is abused.
Even though OTC medications are available without a prescription, it does not mean that they are safe when they are misused. Over-the-counter drug abuse can be a serious problem because a loved one may assume that the drugs are safe. By setting up an intervention and helping a loved one realize that the substance is dangerous, you can encourage a loved one to attend a treatment program.