The Most Misused Over-the-Counter Drugs

Every year hundreds of thousands of people are rushed to the emergency room after misusing over-the-counter drugs. Dr. Oz counts down the top 5 OTC medications that you need to exercise caution with when taking.

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Every year 200,000 Americans land up in the hospital because they use over-the-counter (OTC) drugs incorrectly. Many people assume that OTC drugs are completely safe since they don’t require a prescription. But this is dangerous thinking.

The main danger with OTC drugs lies with users neglecting to thoroughly read labels. Second, people don’t take the time to consult with their pharmacist to make sure they’ve chosen the right drug. Lastly, these medications can affect women and men very differently – mainly because of weight differences – but dosing directions usually only distinguish between adults and children, posing yet another danger.

Practice over-the-counter drug safety by remembering this simple acronym: O-T-C.

  • Obey directions by reading drug labels.
  • Talk to your pharmacist – it’s a free consultation with an expert.
  • Choose the lowest dose first. For example, if the suggested dose is 1-2 tablets, take 1 pill first and see how you feel before upping the dose.

The Top 5 Misused Over-the-Counter Drugs


5. Multi-symptom Cold and Flu Medications

Over 700 OTC multi-symptom cold and flu remedies exist in the marketplace. The biggest misuse issue involves medications containing multiple drug ingredients that target a host of symptoms – including some you might not have. Excess medication can cause unwanted side effects and potentially dangerous drug interactions. For example if you have a cold and you only have 1 symptom, such as nasal congestion, there’s no reason to take a product that also treats cough, headache, body aches, etc. For congestion, take a decongestant with an ingredient such as phenylephrine, which solely treats that symptom.


Safety Rule

When taking a multi-symptom cold or flu medication, make sure you have at least 3/4 of the symptoms it’s treating. Otherwise choose a single-ingredient medication to avoid putting excess chemicals in your body.