We hear of prescription drugs turning lethal when they’re abused or when you overdose; we hear of people obtaining drugs without prescriptions and using them for stimulation; and we hear of doctors who prescribe drugs for their friends and family members (or for celebrities) who request them even though they don’t have a genuine medical need. We’re aware of the dangers in all the above situations, and those of us who are wise will think a million times before treading down any of those paths.
But when it comes to OTC drugs, the kind that you can buy without a prescription, we tend to throw our collective wisdom out the window. We assume they’re safe because we don’t need a doctor’s signature to purchase them. And we don’t take too much care in dosing our children with them because they’re available without any restriction. The truth is, it’s easier to avoid a known danger than to steer clear of an unknown pitfall, and OTC drugs are open drains that are waiting to suck you in when you least expect them to.
OTC drugs become dangerous when:
- They’re taken too often – You have a headache and you’ve just popped a pill. A few minutes later, you don’t feel any relief and so you take one every half hour or so hoping for a quick relief. That’s when the trouble starts.
- You exceed the recommended dosage – The bottle says to drink one teaspoon of the syrup, but you pour the liquid down your throat like it’s water. You think you’re safe because the drug is OTC, but you never know.
- They’re taken for no reason at all – People have been known to become addicted to cough syrups available OTC because of their alcohol content.
- You take more than one medication at the same time – You could suffer adverse reactions if the ingredients in all your medicines don’t mix well.
- They’re given to kids – especially those below four years of age without discussing the decision with your pediatrician. Children are not as strong as adults, so they may react adversely to medication that is not specifically prescribed for them.
- You don’t heed warnings on the label – Some OTC drug labels carry warnings and ask you not to drive or involve yourself in any work that requires your full concentration after you’ve taken a dosage. If you disobey these warnings, the drug could make you somnolent and your lapse in concentration could end up killing you and other people.
Remember, OTC drugs are relatively safe; but like any form of medication, if they’re abused, they turn around to abuse your health, and even your life, in return.