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11.05.2019 Feature Article

The Use And Abuse Of Over-The-Counter Medication

The Use And Abuse Of Over-The-Counter Medication

Nearly everyone in the nation agrees prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drug abuse is at epidemic levels. The two represent what a doctor prescribes (prescription medicine) and what you can buy without a doctor’s prescription (OTC). Both have immediate and long-term consequences. The consequences can be serious, even deadly. Sedentary workers and manual workers are noted for OTC medication abuse. In Ghana, most workers would prefer spending some minutes at the pharmacy shop than to spend hours at the hospital just to be given the same medications. This is very appalling because people tend to have more time for their work than their health.

The most commonly abused prescription drugs are opioids. These include codeine, hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and Fentanyl. These are known as pain medicines. They are prescribed by doctors for pain related to surgery, chronic medical conditions, and dental procedures.

OTC drug abuse also is common. OTC medicine treats a variety of things. These include coughs, colds, pain, constipation, fluid build-up, and more. The most commonly abused OTC medicines include antihistamines, sleep aids, caffeine, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, antitussives and expectorants, dextromethorphan (often used as cough suppressant in OTC cough and cold medicines), laxatives, anabolic steroids, and sildenafil (Viagra). Other abuse involves taking OTC medicine for weight loss that is not designed for that purpose. This includes abusing laxatives, diuretics, and OTC diet pills. People abuse OTC medicine to get high or they take more than the allowed dosage to treat their symptoms. People use and abuse OTC medicines to create new products

It is a common misconception that only illegal drugs are dangerous. There are many different over-the-counter (OTC) drugs with psychoactive, or mind-altering properties that may lead to a number of serious medical and mental health consequences if abused for the mere purpose of getting high. Some people may choose to abuse OTC drugs as opposed to illegal drugs, due to the assumption that if they’re sold at the pharmacy as medication then they must be safe. Abusing OTC drugs can lead to health problems including memory loss, kidney failure, liver failure and toxicity, brain damage, heart problems and lastly death. Side effects of OTC drugs are weakness, stomach pain, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, restlessness among others

OTC medications represent a diverse group of widely available drugs. OTC use is ever increasing and expected to continue to rise. These drugs are safe and effective when used as directed. However, physicians must be aware that some people with or without intention use OTC medications incorrectly. Pharmacists and drug dispensers are charged to educate and counsel the populace particularly patients on appropriate OTC medication use


Dr Kingsley Pereko

University Of Cape Coast, School Of Medical Sciences

Dr. Derrick A. Touyire

University Of Cape Coast, School Of Medical Sciences

Written by,

Patricia Ofosuah Anane

University Of Cape Coast

Bsc. Physician Assistant Studies

Level 200

Patricia Anane
Patricia Anane, © 2019

This author has authored 1 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: PatriciaAnane

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