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5 Over the Counter Medication Risks of Which You Might Not Be Aware

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Most people feel like, if they buy a drug over the counter, they don’t need to be afraid of overdosing on it or of any side effects. However, medications purchased over the counter are still drugs, and you should only take them according to the directions.

There are several over the counter drugs that can damage you significantly with misuse. It helps to know what they are, and if you have concerns, to speak to a doctor.

Here are five drugs and risks that go along with them to remember.


Over the counter medications do huge business in the US, and across the globe. 81% of US adults use over the counter meds to treat minor conditions. One of the most prominent drugs is aspirin.

People use aspirin:

  • To treat headaches
  • To treat muscle aches
  • For the common cold
  • For toothaches

However, just because it is readily available, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come with side effects. If you take too much aspirin, you can expect problems like nervousness, hallucinations, fever, drowsiness, double vision, and burning throat pain.

Aspirin can reduce pain and fever, but you need to only use the recommended dose. Any more than that, and you risk severe consequences.

Motion Sickness Pills

You can also buy motion sickness pills at drug stores, in grocery stores, or in airport gift shops. You can use them for:

  • Long car trips
  • Boat trips
  • Plane trips
  • Bus rides

Some people use them even for short car trips if they are particularly sensitive to motion. These pills work well, and for the most part, they are safe.

However, ingesting too many can be perilous. You might experience hallucinations, loss of appetite, confusion, vomiting, and disorientation. At high enough doses, you might even be looking at delirium and amnesia.

Read the warnings on the label and follow them to avoid any of these issues.

Sleeping Pills

There are also several kinds of sleeping pills on the market that you can buy over the counter. They can be quite strong, and half of one or a whole one is enough to put someone out for a while in many cases.

However, you can become tolerant of them over time if you ingest them every day. If that happens, then you might want to take more. Insomnia can be bothersome, and if you wish to sleep for a while on a flight or bus trip, you may have a strong urge to go overboard with these drugs.

You should never do so. You might want to sleep, but too many sleeping pills can cause depressed breathing. In extreme cases, this breathing interruption can kill you.

It is not by accident that some individuals attempt suicide by ingesting a large number of sleeping pills. If you do experience any severe issues, look into post-hospital senior care or specialist home care to assist with this.

Cough Syrup

Cough syrup contains DXM, a drug that can produce a high if you take enough of it. However, to get to that point, you must ingest much more of the cough syrup or capsules than the box or bottle recommends.

With too much cough syrup in your system, you might experience hallucinations, confusion, restlessness, high blood pressure, or facial redness. You might also sweat excessively or vomit. In fact, large amounts of cough syrup lead to vomiting in almost all cases.

Some desperate people seeking a high will still risk these side effects to get to an altered state. It’s not worth it.

Abusing your body in this way can lead to serious consequences, and not just the ones we mentioned. There have been instances where individuals with heart or respiratory conditions have needed hospitalization from drinking too much cough syrup.

Calcium Supplements

It doesn’t seem as though calcium supplements could be dangerous, but there can be too much of a good thing. While they’re great for individuals who don’t get enough calcium in their diets, too much can lead to kidney failure, kidney stones, and constipation.

In some instances, there have been reports of confusion, cognitive problems, and heart function issues. Hypercalcemia brings these on, which means that you have too much calcium in your system.

Any doctor will tell you that following instructions to the letter with drugs is the best way to go, and that’s true with over the counter as well as prescription ones. As long as you don’t abuse over the counter drugs, you should be okay, but don’t hesitate to reach out to your primary caregiver if you have questions or concerns.

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