Collage of Photos of Prescription Drug Misuse

What are the Over-the-Counter (OTC) Drugs Most Commonly Misused?

Over‐the‐counter (OTC) drugs are medications that can be purchased at a local pharmacy or supermarket without a doctor’s prescription. While OTC drugs provide millions of people with relief from cold and cough symptoms, these medications can also be misused, particularly by youth.

Common OTC drugs that are misused include: Cough and cold medicines containing dextromethorphan (DXM) (Coricidin®, Robitussin®, and NyQuil®)

  • Sleep-aids (Unisom®)
  • Antihistamines (Benadryl®)
  • Anti-nausea agents (Gravol® or Dramamine®)

Tranquilizers and Sedatives

When high doses of dextromethorphan (DXM) and other OTC drugs2 are taken, problems with the senses, especially hearing and vision, can lead to confusion, memory loss, stomach pain, numbness, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, fever and headaches, rashes, loss of consciousness and even hallucinations.

2 Strategizer 52. Teen Prescription Drug Abuse: An Emerging Threat. (2008). Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. http://www.theantidrug.com/pdfs/resources/teen-rx/CADCA_Strategizer52.pdf. Accessed August 28, 2009.
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