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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4. Acetaminophen

To relieve pain from ailments ranging from headaches to menstrual cramps, many people reach for the OTC drug acetaminophen, most widely known as Tylenol, but now found in many other cough and cold medications. Acetaminophen misuse is the leading cause of acute liver failure. Symptoms of liver failure include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and jaundice.

The overuse of acetaminophen can also worsen headaches, a side effect known as rebound syndrome. Women especially need to take note of this danger since they suffer from headaches more frequently than men do. Click here to learn more about rebound headaches.


Safety Rule

Never take more than 8 tablets (4,000 mg) of acetaminophen a day.

3. Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

Approximately 15 million Americans suffer from heartburn every single day. To get relief, many take OTC drugs called proton pump inhibitors, or PPIS, like Prilosec and Prevacid that work by shutting down stomach-acid production. Frequent PPI use has been shown to form some sort of drug dependency in as little as a few weeks. Also the low-acid environment created by PPIs decreases absorption of calcium, which increases fracture risk (especially in women) and is also linked to vitamin B12 deficiency, which can cause nerve damage.

Safety rule

Use proton pump inhibitors for no longer than 4 weeks. As a safe, well-tolerated alternative, try an antacid, but don’t for more than 2 weeks without consulting a doctor.