Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Dangerous OTC drugs (Ephedrine, Tylenol, Robitussin DM)

November 29, 2012 by  
Filed under OTC Drugs


Many people assume that if a drug is sold over-the-counter, it is safe, especially when compared to prescription drugs or “street” drugs. But adverse reactions are not uncommon with OTC drugs. And abusing OTC drugs can lead to dependence and addiction. Young people abuse cough and cold medications to get high, and diet meds to lose weight. They are easy to get and relatively cheap, but they can be very dangerous when taken in high quantities.

Dangerous OTC drugs: Ephedrine

Ephedrine is a dangerous OTC drug. It is a stimulant used for weight loss, as a concentration aid, and as a decongestant. Some students use it as a study aid, and athletes use it to give them energy while working out. Because ephedrine is a stimulant, this dangerous OTC drug can cause heart problems when it is used during strenuous activity. It has been known to cause deaths from heatstroke in athletes and circulatory problems such as aortic aneurysm in weightlifters.

  • Ephedrine is also used to make meth, since it is so similar in chemical structure. It is often included in ecstasy pills as well.
  • This particular dangerous OTC drug is legal for sale in the US, but purchase is limited and monitored.
  • Ephedrine can cause high blood pressure, rapid or irregular heartbeat, flushing of the skin, nausea, decreased urination, anxiety, and tremors.
  • Ephedrine is also commonly abused by people who suffer from eating disorders. It suppresses appetite and it boosts energy for working out.

Dangerous OTC drugs: Robitussin DM and Coricidin

Robitussin DM and Coricidin are OTC cough and cold remedies that contain dextromethorphan, aka DXM. If you take DXM in sufficient quantities, you can hallucinate, which is why it is often abused. However, DXM only becomes a hallucinogen at 12.5 to 75 times the recommended therapeutic dose, and at this high level, it can be a very dangerous OTC drug. This use of Robitussin DM to hallucinate is known as robo-tripping; Coricidin pills are often referred to as “triple C’s.” At doses between 100-200 mg, DXM is said to have a mild euphoric effect, at doses of 400 mg, users experience intense euphoria and hallucination. At high doses (600mg) users have intense hallucinations and even psychosis.

When Robitussin DM or Corididin is taken in “recreational doses,” most people experience vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle spasms.

For teens, the appeal of DXM containing products is that they are easy to get, they’re legal, and parents and teachers usually don’t have any idea they’re taking it. There have been several reports of overdoses of kids using DXM and even a handful of DXM-related deaths. DXM-containing products also commonly contain anti-histamines, which can cause respiratory distress when taken in high doses.

Dangerous OTC drugs: What’s the risk?

All-in-all, OTC products are generally safe when taken as directed. It’s only when people start to abuse them that they can be dangerous and even addictive. Some states have started restricting the sale of potentially dangerous OTC drugs by setting an age limit to buy them and restricting how much can be bought at one time.

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