Over-the-Counter Drug Abuse and Addiction in WA State: Do People Need Detox and Rehab to Recover?

People are often surprised to learn how common OTC drug addiction and abuse is in Washington State. This is a serious problem, and getting off these medications may require some to enter into a detox and rehab program.

Because these drugs are available for purchase over-the-counter, they are thought to be less dangerous. There is an element of truth to that, but only when they are being taken appropriately.

Over-the-counter drugs can become highly addictive when they are being abused. The longer a person misuses them, the higher the probability is that they will get addicted. But because almost anyone can purchase them, it is easy for people to get their hands on them.

We believe that more people need to be made aware of how dangerous over-the-counter drugs can be. They need to know of the risks involved with abusing them, and that they can even get addicted if they continue. But we also want people to know that there is hope. Recovery is possible by getting professional treatment.

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The Over the Counter Drugs Definition

It's important to know the over the counter medication definition when you're talking about this topic.

According to the FDA, OTC drugs are those that have been found safe and appropriate for use without the supervision of a healthcare professional. These are medications that can be purchased without a prescription.

There are many different types of OTC medicines. Some states have laws about how old you need to be to purchase them. In many states, these drugs are available on drug store shelves for anyone to buy.

For the most part, OTC drugs are known to be relatively safe. However, any of them can be abused. Sometimes abuse occurs accidentally when taking too much of the drug. Sometimes abuse occurs for recreational reasons.

Over the Counter Drug Addiction

A List of OTC Items That Can Lead to Abuse and Addiction

There are many different types of OTC items and medications that can lead to abuse and eventually, addiction. It's important that you know the dangers of these drugs. Taking them recreationally can be dangerous for you.

Common OTC items that are abused include:

  • Diet pills
  • Dramamine
  • Sleeping aids
  • DXM cough medicine
  • Pain relievers
  • Caffeine pills
  • Laxatives and herbal diuretics
  • Sexual performance medications
  • Pseudoephedrine
  • Herbal ecstasy
  • Other types of herbal drugs

Who is Likely to Abuse OTC Medications?

Anyone is able to abuse OTC drugs at any time. However, young people have been shown to be much more likely to abuse them than adults.

This is because OTC drugs are very easy for teenagers and young adults to get.

Even in states where an ID is required, most only require you to be 18 years old. They are relatively available in many stores, and they are also inexpensive.

For teenagers, some types of OTC medications seem like an easy way for them to get a quick high. Still, there are some adults who will abuse them as well.

Symptoms of Over the Counter Medicine Abuse

Every over the counter drug may have different symptoms of abuse. However, in general, you can tell if you are abusing OTC drugs by looking for a few common signs.

The symptoms of OTC medication abuse might include:

  • Becoming withdrawn from friends and family
  • Having problems with short-term memory
  • Experiencing changes in your personality or mood
  • Speaking with slurred speech
  • Becoming less productive at school or at work
  • Changes in your appetite
  • Possible weight loss or weight gain

If you have noticed any of these symptoms, OTC drug abuse may be the reason. It is important to stop abusing over the counter medications if you are. Continuing to abuse them is very likely to lead to an addiction.

What is OTC Drug Addiction?

An over the counter medicine addiction can occur when someone has been abusing these drugs. Typically, abuse needs to have occurred for a longer period of time. Even so, there's no way to tell how long it may take someone to form an addiction to them.

When you are addicted to OTC drugs, you feel as though you need them. You may crave them frequently. You may even not be able to function properly without them.

An OTC drug addiction is a very serious condition. Even though these drugs are available to almost everyone, they still can be very dangerous.

There are some symptoms of over the counter medication addiction that you can look for. These symptoms include:

  • Building up a tolerance to the drug, which means you need more of it over time.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop using OTC medications.
  • Continuing to use OTC drugs even though they are causing medical problems.
  • Spending a lot of money on OTC medicines every month.
  • Finding that OTC drug use is negatively impacting personal relationships, work and school.

It's possible that you have been using OTC drugs for quite some time. You may know that you have been abusing them. However, you're not sure if you've developed an actual addiction to them.

It's important for you to be able to identify an addiction. It isn't always easy to see an OTC drug addiction within yourself. However, when you know what to look for, it can become easier.

You may be addicted to OTC drugs if you fit any of the criteria listed above. Also, you may notice some physical or mental signs of OTC medication addiction. These signs might include:

  • Symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • Feeling withdrawn and avoiding social situations
  • Having cravings for OTC drugs
  • Insomnia, or other problems with sleep, such as restless legs, or nightmares
  • Poor personal hygiene habits and grooming

Perhaps you still need more information to determine if you're addicted to OTC drugs. Taking an addiction quiz can help you tremendously. It will also give you direction regarding what you need to do to get help, if needed.

The Dangers of Abusing OTC Drugs

OTC medications are dangerous when they're abused. This is true for anyone, but it might be especially true for young adults and teens. Their bodies are still growing and developing, which puts them at a much higher risk.

It is so important to know the dangers of over the counter drug abuse or addiction. Of course, the risks are different, depending on what type of drug you're using. However, you should be aware of the risk of:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Bouts of dizziness
  • Hot flashes
  • Possible hallucinations
  • Possible hair loss
  • Menstrual cycle problems
  • Blurry vision
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Urinary tract infections

Some types of OTC medications can have even worse effects if they are taken long-term. These can include:

  • Negatively impacting your heart
  • The risk of kidney problems
  • The risk of liver problems
  • High blood pressure
  • The risk of a stroke

As you can see, OTC medications are not to be taken lightly. They may be easy to obtain, but they're dangerous to abuse. It is even possible to die from taking too much, or from taking them for too long.

Advice for Parents on Teens Who Abuse OTC Items

For parents, it can be so devastating to learn that their teens are abusing OTC items and drugs.

Many times, the news that this is happening under their roofs is shocking to them. They need to be aware of how to spot OTC drug abuse when it begins. Unfortunately, many parents aren't sure what they should be looking for.

If you are a parent, you may be concerned about your teen. Maybe you've noticed some of the signs of OTC drug abuse, but you're still not sure.

Here are some other signs you can look for. If your teen is abusing OTC medications, he or she may:

  • Steal your family OTC medicines from your medicine cabinet
  • Spend a lot of money on over the counter drugs
  • Accuse you of invading their privacy
  • Try to cover up medicine-like smells coming from their room
  • Show signs of being drugged, such as being sluggish or hyperactive

If you have noticed any of these signs, your teen may be abusing OTC drugs. There are some things you can do if this is the case in your home.

Begin by having a conversation with your teen. He or she may be waiting for you to bring it up so that help can be obtained. If your teen is avoidant, it may be time to contact your family doctor to discuss the problem. Eventually, you may want to consider professional OTC drug treatment for recovery.

Washington State Cracks Down on OTC Drug, DXM

In 2014, Washington State passed legislation that restricted the purchase of dextromethorphan, or DXM. Washington Representative Paul Harris stated that, “This will deter teens who are purchasing cold medicines with the intent to abuse them…Rates of abuse of this substance have increased significantly over the last decade. Other states have already taken action and this legislation will help protect children in Washington State.”

The bill prohibits the sale of any non-prescription drug that contains DXM to people under the age of 18. The only exceptions are for emancipated minors and those who are actively enrolled in the military.

In addition, selling DXM is now punishable by a written warning for the first offense. Subsequent offenses will result in class 1 civil infractions. Any manufacturer that uses DXM as an ingredient in its products are required to provide a list of those products to the Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission.

DXM is a very popular drug among young people. About 1 in 25 teenagers abuse it as a way to get high. Of course, this is not the only drug that is problematic, but it is certainly a start toward protecting more people.

Getting Treatment for an Over-The-Counter Drug Addiction in WA State

Sometimes people assume that if they get addicted to OTC drugs, all they need to do is stop using them. But what they do not realize is that it might not be that easy. Once an addiction has formed, the body has gotten used to using the drug. When it is stopped, it can be very hard for the body to find a sense of homeostasis or balance. This is why withdrawal symptoms take place.

Withdrawal needs to be treated professionally in many instances because if it is not, there is a strong chance the person will relapse. That does nothing but perpetuate the cycle of addiction for that individual.

But detoxing – while it is important – should never be considered the “end of the journey.” Rehab is also equally important because people also need therapy in order to help them stay clean.

Every person is different as far as how their body responds to stopping the use of certain drugs. For some people, withdrawal may not be too difficult, and in those cases, it may not be necessary to go through drug detox. But in many cases, it will be.

Medical detox is the best option to help people get through withdrawal from OTC drugs. It is a method of treatment that would allow the person to take medications to help with their symptoms. This should only be done on an inpatient basis.

Once the person has detoxed, they move on to rehab. During drug rehab, they receive multiple types of therapy. Working with a therapist in a one-on-one setting is extremely important, and it is often the backbone of addiction treatment. The therapist will get to know the client well. Their job is to determine what it was that led to the addiction.

In many cases, addictions are caused by co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety or depression. These mental health issues are often what drive people to use OTC drugs as a way to self-medicate. Dual diagnosis treatment is needed to help people in this situation.

Other forms of treatment are recommended as well, and they are based on the person’s individual needs. For instance, group therapy and family therapy may both be used to help people recover from their OTC drug addiction.

Our Outpatient Rehab Program in Washington State

At Northpoint the Evergreen, we offer one of the best outpatient rehab programs in Washington State. Our clients are assessed individually and then placed into one of three types of treatment:

Many of our clients begin by attending our IOP, and then they move on to outpatient rehab when it is finished. This is because continuing to get support is extremely important, and it will help them be successful.

We are located in Seattle and in Bellevue, so our clients have options for which facility they prefer. Also, we are in-network with many of the top health insurance companies in Washington State. That means that paying for rehab does not have to be a cause for concern.

Evergreen Addiction Rehab

Learn More About OTC Drug Abuse, Addiction and Options for Treatment in Washington State

At Northpoint the Evergreen, we want people to know that we care about their recoveries. Struggling with an OTC drug addiction is so hard, but that struggle can end. With help from our professional and caring staff, anyone can overcome this addiction if they are committed.

Do you need to know more about over-the-counter drug abuse and addiction? Would you like information about our outpatient treatment program in Washington State? Please contact us today.

Talk to a Rehab Specialist

Our admissions coordinators are here to help you get started with treatment the right way. They'll verify your health insurance, help set up travel arrangements, and make sure your transition into treatment is smooth and hassle-free.

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