How are OTC ("over-the-counter") drugs used outside their manufacturer's recommended use?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a great many concerns with regard to how OTC ("over the counter") drugs are used when done so apart from the manufacture's original intent and/or recommended dosages.

The Italian adventurer often quoted as saying: "In wise hands, poison is medicine. In foolish hands, medicine is a poison."   

This is the case with OTC medications on the market today. Things meant to control coughs and other cold or allergy symptoms are misused. For instance, anything with a high alcohol content, such as cough syrups have needed to be closely supervised. This was especially the case when these syrups had codeine. In fact, any kind of cold remedy that has alcohol has become a potential target by those trying to ingest anything with alcohol (this even includes, now, hand sanitizers).

As another example, a common drug used in cold and flu remedies is dextromethorphan (that has "mind-altering effects"). It is potentially dangerous, as seen in the following example:

[A] man [found guilty of manslaughter] testified in court that he had taken thirty Coricidin tablets in order to hallucinate. 

Medications used specifically for allergies can also have dangerous effects when used beyond the recommended dose. Containing "antihistamines," they can generally cause drowsiness. Overuse can cause anxiety at heightened levels, an inability to sleep, "muscle tremors," and even hallucinations. Sensitivity to these kinds of drugs, may require emergency medical attention; they can even cause death.

Another concern is the use of OTC cold remedies that are being used in "meth" labs across the country to manufacture methamphetamines. Besides the seemingly immediate addiction that results having used the drug only a few times, there are also grave risks of "lab" explosions while mishandling the chemicals used to manufacture this drug.

Illicit drug makers often use the ingredients found in certain over-the-counter preparations to create designer drugs in homemade labs.

While many of the misuses in OTC drugs are either to get high or to manufacture dangerous drugs (which generate an exponentially high profit compared to the ease of manufacture), another reason OTC drugs are misused is with the intent to commit suicide.

Because of the extensive abuse of these OTC products, many are now kept behind the pharmacy/druggist's counter, and those purchasing must sign for them. It is hard to know if this is effective, as those using them illegally will travel from one drug store to the next, even crossing state lines, purposely purchasing only one or two containers, often working in pairs to avoid detection by using their ID over and over again.

Abuse of products containing these substances is especially high in the southern and western parts of the United States.

homer909 | Student

Long story short, people are not respecting the assigned dosages of medications. People OD (overdose) to affect their stress levels but it is DETRIMENTAL to their health. Every day people die from this (like britanny murphy) or suffer from long-term side effects.