Chances are you have taken over-the-counter drugs at one point or another in your life. Typically, it’s when you feel a bit under the weather but decides not to go to the hospital. Getting drugs over the counter seems like the easier way out. Generally, over-the-counter drugs are used to treat common illnesses, such as a running nose, headaches, and fever. There are high chances that you have suffered from one of these diseases more than once and bought the same medication every single time.

That means most people diagnose themselves and go get the drugs that previously worked for them over the counter. However, you should be careful, as some of these drugs are highly addictive. Below are some of the most addictive over-the-counter drugs and their side effects:


Antihistamines are often used to treat colds and allergies. Some also use it as a sleeping aid. Drugs like Sominex and Unisom cause drowsiness. Since the prolonged use of such drugs is addictive, antihistamines should only be taken as per the prescription; continuous use of the drug in large amounts is the beginning of the addiction.

Over time, your body develops a high tolerance for the drug, rendering it ineffective. The abuse of antihistamines makes you develop severe side effects like seizures, extreme drowsiness, and rapid heartbeats, among others. Most people tend to use antihistamines as depressants together with alcohol, which can pose a significant danger and even lead to the loss of life.

Cough Medicine

Cough medicine is the most commonly abused over-the-counter drug. It is easily accessible, and one does not require a prescription to get your hands on it. The cough medicine is available in different forms: tablets, syrup, or capsules. Generally, you are at a high risk of getting addicted to cough medicine if not taken as per the doctor’s instructions.

Cough medicine comprises dextromethorphan, which is the main ingredient that helps stop the coughing. Teenagers are more likely to abuse cough medicine because of its availability. When consumed in large quantities, the high you experience can last up to 6 hours. Therefore, it’s essential to limit the continuous consumption of cough medicine in large amounts because of the serious side effects, including vomiting and brain damage. The extent of brain damage is severe, irreversible, and often leads to death.


Pseudoephedrine is used to treat motion sickness and colds. Drugs such as Claritin, Mucinex, Benadryl, and Dramamine contain Pseudoephedrine, which is highly addictive. It assists in treating your running nose. In addition, pseudoephedrine is used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, which is a highly addictive and illegal drug.

In order to get your hands on Pseudoephedrine, you need a prescription from the doctor, your identification card, and other pharmacies might even require you to sign if you are buying it in large amounts. However, you can still buy products that contain this substance over the counter.


Most people with eating disorders such as bulimia and those who attempt to lose weight fast are at risk of abusing laxatives. The primary function of a laxative is to prompt the bowels to empty artificially. Most people do not know that while it may help you shed a few pounds, the price you pay is hefty as it comes with severe consequences.

Laxatives cause electrolyte imbalance, GI tract dysfunction, and kidney disease. Prolonged use of laxatives can cause severe dehydration in your body, irritable bowel syndrome, and heart failure. The colon becomes dependent on the laxatives over time and is unable to function correctly, thus making the process of passing waste complex. Perhaps that is why most experts recommend that laxatives should only be administered as per the doctor’s directive.

Helpful Resources

Delphi Health Group | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Alina Lodge

Time Union Article

Sunrise House

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