Idaho has several recovery options available, but sadly, most people do not realize the need for treatment. They tend to think of rehab as being for people who are addicted to illegal drugs like heroin or cocaine. But what they do not realize is that OTC drugs can be just as addictive, in many cases.
OTC drugs are often widely available for purchase, which makes tracking them nearly impossible. Because of this, it can be difficult to determine how many people are actually abusing them. One of the biggest issues surrounding these medications is the fact that people presume them to be safe. They can be used safely when they are taken properly. But they can also be abused, which many people do, without any regard for the consequences.
We want to do our part to help make people more aware of the dangers of OTC drugs. They are certainly not as safe as people think they are, and more people abuse them than we realize. We want the people of Idaho to know that there is hope and that recovery is possible. But to find freedom from this addiction, rehab and possibly detox may be needed.
OTC is short for over-the-counter drugs. These substances are not as tightly regulated as many other abused substances and are actually available at most pharmacies and may even be carried by grocery stores and gas stations.
In fact, you've probably even used some of the most commonly abused OTC substances yourself. When taken in their recommended dosages, these drugs are used to treat a cough and cold, seasonal allergies, moderate insomnia, and fatigue.
Two of the most frequently abused chemicals found in over-the-counter drugs are dextromethorphan and pseudoephedrine which can be found in certain cough medicines and allergy medications respectively.
While these chemicals are typically used properly and according to the instructions on the back of the bottles, some drug users may abuse these substances by taking high doses or using them to create other street drugs.
As such, there has been quite a bit of government crackdown on the sale of certain OTC substances that have a high likelihood of abuse. Some, for instance, can only be bought in low quantities like one or two bottles. Others will require purchase through the actual pharmacy counter in order to make it harder to buy or steal large quantities. In fact, some states ban the sale of these medications to minors entirely due to the prevalence of OTC drug abuse in teens.
What's important to remember is that even though these drugs are technically legal to consume, taking them in doses higher than those recommended in order to achieve some sort of high is considered abuse.
Dextromethorphan, also known as DXM, is one of the most widely abused OTC drugs on the market today. It's classified as a morphinan class substance and has been shown to have dissociative, sedative, and stimulant properties depending on the dosage and is primarily used as a cough suppressant.
It can be found in a variety of products like Robotussin, NyQuil, TheraFlu, Delsym, and Vicks although many of these companies have created alternative products that are DXM-free in order to curb the trends of abuse.
Abuse of this OTC substance occurs in large part in order to feel the dissociative hallucinogenic effects that the drug can have on the body. Some users will also report an energy rush similar to that produced by other stimulants such as cocaine as well as an overarching sensation of euphoria. In fact, DXM affects the brain by stimulating the same neuron receptors as the street drug PCP.
The high of DXM abuse depends largely on the amount consumed. Users report feeling the effects for anywhere from a few hours to several days but the average span of its effects will probably be felt for 6-10 hours. And while some of this time might be spent feeling its pleasant side effects, most of it will actually involve the unpleasant ones such as:
As such, the high associated with DXM can end up being far from enjoyable.
When it comes to the profile of a DXM addict, most cases of abuse are committed by teenagers. This is true for a few reasons. First, DXM can be incredibly easy to get your hands on. In most states, medications containing this chemical can be found in your local grocery store or pharmacy and don't have any sorts of regulations.
DXM is also perceived as being safer than street drugs. The safety problem is one issue in particular that should be dealt with when discussing the dangerous effects of this drug. Continued abuse of DXM in high doses can lead to severe kidney and liver damage and even death.
This over-the-counter drug is also abused by teens because it's incredibly cheap and easy to hide from their parents. When it comes to spending a few bucks on a bottle of cough syrup or having to gather up enough money to pay for drugs illegally, the choice is pretty clear to the younger population of which road to take, especially when their income is severely limited. What's more, most parents don't even know that dextromethorphan can be abused in the first place, making it much easier to hide its misuse.
And finally, addiction to DXM is common mostly in teens because these are the years where their access to other drugs such as marijuana and alcohol are pretty limited. Once they are out of the house and reach a legal drinking age, many abusers will opt for these other drugs rather than forcing down a bottle of cough syrup. And while the "they'll grow out of it" mentality is certainly prevalent, it's important to recognize the fact that addiction is a disease and these addictive behaviors are likely to simply transfer over to a new drug of choice.
To make it easier to identify DXM abuse, here are a few street names for dextromethorphan:
When dextromethorphan is combined with soda or alcohol, the concoction is called:
A common cold medicine called Coricidin has become extremely popular among teens in Idaho. Many of them are either buying it or stealing it from local stores and selling it in high schools. The main ingredient that they are after is DXM.
Young people use different names to refer to Coricidin, such as Red Caps, Skittles or Triple C. In many stores, it is readily available right on the shelves. But some retailers have made some changes, which require people to actually ask for it before taking it to the register. This has cut down on some instances of theft and illicit purchasing.
When drugs like Coricidin are taken appropriately, they can be very effective at treating coughs and colds. But young people are taking this drug excessively, as a way to get high.
This particular drug is the second most commonly abused over-the-counter medicine behind DXM. As its name suggests, pseudoephedrine is technically considered to be a stimulant. As such, using it in higher doses than recommended can produce a wide variety of effects similar to other stimulants such as:
Due to its tendency to shrink nasal mucous membranes that have become swollen, it is most commonly used as a nasal decongestant in products like Sudafed Triple Action, Advil Allergy Sinus, Mucinex D, and Claritin-D.
As such, many meth producers were flocking to pharmacies and supermarkets to buy up as much pseudoephedrine-containing products as possible. Recent regulation, however, has worked to limit the number of pseudoephedrine products that can be sold at a time and even requires some stores to keep an active log of who is buying these medications. Some states have even made pseudoephedrine only available with a legal prescription.
While there are people who abuse pseudoephedrine alone, it is often used to make meth, as we mentioned previously. This is a drug problem that has all but fallen out of the spotlight because of the opioid epidemic. But people are still abusing it, and some authorities believe its production has increased over the last several years.
According to Rob Stevenson of Drug Free Idaho, the number of students using methamphetamine has decreased. In 2007, 6.4% of young people used the drug. By 2015, that number went down to 2.3%. But he still has concerns because of the pro-drug message that teens are receiving. The bottom line is, drugs ruin families every single day, regardless of what they are.
Idaho’s meth problem is as challenging today as it ever was. But this is a drug problem that can be traced back to OTC drug abuse. More people need to realize the dangers of these drugs and what they are doing to our communities.
Two of the primary indicators of addiction are the presence of a built-up tolerance (your body getting used to the drug and needing more for a high) and experiencing symptoms of withdrawal. For OTC addicts, most of these symptoms will primarily be psychological. Some symptoms they might experience are:
When it comes to spotting the other signs of OTC drug addiction, you'll want to be on the lookout for a variety of addiction behaviors such as:
While these side effects of OTC drug abuse are certainly common in addicts, they don't necessarily mean that someone actually has a substance use disorder. As such, only a qualified professional can say 100% if they are suffering from an addiction to OTC medications.
But even so, if you truly want to help someone who is addicted, one of the best things you can do for them and for their future is to convince them to get the help they need.
Because there are so many types of OTC drugs that can be addictive, treatment recommendations will vary. They are based on several factors, such as:
Withdrawal symptoms can be very difficult for some people. In these cases, drug detox may be recommended as the first course of action. Detoxing helps to remove those harmful toxins from the body and it can ease the severity of withdrawal.
After detoxing, the individual should then begin drug rehab. This will involve various types of counseling and therapy, both in individual and group settings. There are inpatient and outpatient options available, depending on the level of care the person needs.
At Ashwood Recovery, our outpatient addiction treatment program is there to provide people with the support they need. Recovering from an addiction can be very difficult, but our staff members are very experienced with OTC drugs. We know how to treat these addictions to help people reach their recovery goals.
We have three levels of care for our clients. They are partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient treatment and a more traditional outpatient rehab. They all require different time commitments, but all of them provide a high level of care.
We have two locations in Idaho. They are in Boise and Nampa. We are also in-network with many of the top health insurance providers in the state. This allows us to keep our out-of-pocket costs as low as we can.
At Ashwood Recovery, we know how easily people can be convinced that OTC drugs are harmless. They appear to be safe because of how easily they can be obtained. This has led so many people to become addicted to them, and we want to provide our services to help them.
OTC drugs can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs and prescription painkillers. It is our hope that more people will recognize the risks and make the decision to stop abusing them.