OTC - Over The Counter Drugs

OTC, or over the counter drugs, are some of the easiest drugs to abuse, especially amongst teens and young adults. This OTC drug review discusses over the counter drugs abused, such as DXM and pill parties. Keep reading for tips on preventing over the counter drug abuse.


Unfortunately, many people believe that because over the counter drugs can be use without a prescription from a doctor, it means that they are safe. However, in the wrong dosages, and when used for the wrong purposes, over the counter medicines can be quite dangerous. They are, in fact, drugs, and they have the ability to affect your body and alter your state of mind. This means that, just like when you use any other drug, they can cause harm to you if you are not careful.

DXM Abuse

One of the most commonly abused OTC drugs is DXM. This is an ingredient in many cough syrups that can be bought over the counter. DXM can actually impair judgment, result in a loss of coordination, bring on bouts of dizziness and nausea, reduce reaction time and increase heart rate and blood pressure. High doses of cough medicines containing DXM can also bring on hallucinations, seizure, brain damage and even death.

Even though medicines containing DXM can be used in relative safety on occasion for cold and fly symptoms, and as long as the instructions are followed, too much of it, for too long, can be devastating. And, if taken in a very high dose, it only takes once to bring on death or some other serious injury. It is important to realize that DXM is especially harmful when used in conjunction with alcohol and other drugs.

Some of the street names for cough syrups that have DXM include:

  • Robo
  • Dex
  • Poor man’s X
  • CCC
  • Triple C
  • Purple Drank
  • Tussin

Other OTC medicines that are abused include diuretics, diet pills, laxatives and even pain relievers. All of these over the counter medicines should only be used in accordance with instructions, and they should not be abused.

Pill or "Pharm" parties

OTC drugs are popular ingredients in what are sometimes referred to as “pill parties”. In these parties, participants bring something from their medicine cabinet - often over the counter drugs. Everything is mixed into a large bowl, and people just grab handfuls and swallow what they grab. In many cases, these teens are washing the pills down with alcohol. With no regard for harmful drug interactions, not to mention the interactions with alcohol, the results can be deadly. There may be a brief “buzz”, but in the end, some of the drugs can be quite harmful when mixed in this way.

It is very important to be aware of what is going on when your teenager attends parties. Make it clear that if they are uncomfortable or if there are drugs, even over the counter drugs, that they should call you for a ride home.

Preventing over the counter drug abuse

Studies have repeatedly shown that parents play a huge role in preventing drug abuse by teenagers. Parents who are involved and interested in their kids’ lives can help influence them to stay away from drugs. You can watch for signs of OTC drug abuse, which include:

  • Running out of medications quickly.
  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Constantly claims to be sick, even though he or she isn’t showing the symptoms. 
  • Empty pill bottles in the trash.

You should also try and meet your kids’ friends and their parents, and keep computers in public places. Many teenagers learn about pill parties, OTC drugs and other behaviors online. Appropriately monitor your child’s Internet time, and online friends.

Also, make sure that you speak with your children about appropriate uses for over the counter drugs, and make it clear what your expectations are for them. It is important that you set clear expectations for their behavior, and consequences that will follow. Encourage your teen in his or her extracurricular activities and after school job so that there is a focus beyond abusing drugs and partying in dubious places. In the end, you can help make a difference in your child’s life, and help your teenager make good choices about the use of substances - including over the counter drugs.


Related Article: Painkiller Abuse Amongst Teens >>