Get Free and Confidential Help 24/7

Substance Abuse of Over-the-Counter Medications?

When you think about substance abuse and drug addiction, your mind automatically thinks about illicit drugs— but legal substances, prescription drugs, and even over the counter medications can all be abused. Many people regard legal substances as being safe, just because they are legal to buy in the United States. No matter what the substance is, addicts can find a way to abuse it if they want to get high. The dangers of over the counter drugs can be just as extreme as any illicit drug you were to buy on the street. Any consumption of an over-the-counter (OTC) medication outside of what is recommended, is abuse.

Common over-the-counter medications that are being abused, their effects, and their dangers are as follows:

  • Robitussin-DM

The common ingredient Dextromethorphan is found in over the counter cold and cough medications. This ingredient helps to stop a cough, but in large doses can get you high—with feelings of euphora. Doses of this drug can also cause a loss of motor coordination, visual distortions, out-of-body sensations and hallucinations. High doses can result in irregular or slow breathing, blacking out, muscle twitching, extreme drowsiness, vomiting, rapid heart rate or heart palpitations, dangerous shifts in blood pressure, elevated body temperature, blurred vision, and brain damage

  • Pseudoephedrine

Pseudoephedrine is an over-the-counter decongestant cold medication. Taken abusively, this medication will cause hallucinations and/or an intense body high. This medication is also a common ingredient in the creation of methamphetamine or meth. Meth is made in illegal meth labs across the United States and Mexico. U.S. laws have now regulated purchasing of pseudoephedrine so you may have to sign for the item upon purchase to discourage using the item to make meth. Abusing pseudoephedrine can cause irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, dizziness and seizures.

  • Motion sickness medication

The active ingredient in motion sickness pills is called Dimenhydrinate. In high doses, this drug can cause hallucinations, ringing in the ears, nausea, irregular heartbeat, seizures, coma, and even death. This drug is often abused for its psychedelic properties, and is considered a deliriant when taken in high doses.

Effects of Abusing OTC Medications

Abusing over-the-counter medications is just as dangerous as using any illicit drug. Just because a medication is available without a prescription, does not mean it is not able to be abused and it does not mean that the medication is safe. In addition to the effects of abusing over-the-counter medications above, other effects are serious health problems, including memory loss, kidney failure, heart problems and death.

Do I Need Detox For OTC Medication Abuse?

Yes, over-the-counter medications can cause withdrawal symptoms if you abruptly stop using them. It is the most important first step in recovery to first attend a medical detoxification center, like ours at Royal Life Centers at Puget Sound. Medical detox is necessary for the safe and effective detoxification of any substance(s) from the body. The withdrawal from OTC medications can effect both physical and mental health. Common withdrawal symptoms experienced from OTC medications include: confusion, irritability, severe anxiety, mood changes, and an unstable blood pressure.

Our Medical Detox

Royal Life Centers at Puget Sound will assess each guest for their symptoms of withdrawal, and evaluate them for any co-occuring disorders. With 24/7 direct medical supervision from medical staff, guests will be attended to and treated for drug or alcohol withdrawal. Our detox program combines physical health with strengthening mental health, which is why Royal Life Centers at Puget Sounds begins our intensive therapy during the detox process. While receiving medical care, guests will participate in behavioral therapies to uncover the root cause of their alcohol or substance use disorder.

Our detox center offers a short term, inpatient program. Our medical detox program can last for either 4 or a full 8 days of stabilization. Attending a medical detox center for your substance abuse is vital to maintaining safe medical conditions. The withdrawal process can produce life threatening systems, which is why it is best done in a professional, safe, and controlled environment. Treatments for drug or alcohol abuse can continue after detox with our other treatment options. In addition to our medical detox program, Royal Life Centers at Puget Sound offers a residential inpatient program. Our residential inpatient program is a 2-week long program, that uses intensive therapy and therapeutic processes for addiction treatment.

Our Programs

Our treatment centers provide both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs. Royal Life Centers at Puget Sound offers a medical detox and residential inpatient programs. Royal Life Centers also offers programs including: a partial hospitalization program (PHP), an intensive outpatient program (IOP), an outpatient program (OP), sober living and graduate housing. Our programs involve educating guests about how to prevent relapse as well, because we support long term, lasting sobriety.


“Commonly Abused OTC and Prescription Drugs With Pictures.” WebMD, WebMD,

“Over the Counter Drug Addiction – Abusing OTC Drugs.” AddictionCenter, American Addiction Center,

If you or someone you know is struggling with an over-the-counter drug addiction, or any substance use disorder, please reach out to our addiction specialists for guidance and support at (877)-RECOVERY or (888) 308-1985. Our team is available to take your call 24/7. Because We Care.

Table of Contents

Read More From Royal Life Centers Writers