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Over the Counter Medication Abuse and Addiction

Promotion of early detection of breast and cervical cancers in Chiang Mai


Over the Counter Medication Abuse and Addiction

By Peter Maplethorpe

Over the counter (OTC) medications are obtainable easily, are highly abused, and cause addictions in many people. Today in rehabs across the world, OTC are accounting for a large amount of addictions being treated.

Because you can buy them without a doctor’s prescription, many people think that they are not harmful, and not addicting. It is very important to know and understand what over the counter medications are and how they can be harmful.

Over the counter (OTC) medications, are drugs that do not require a prescription. They can be bought at any pharmacy, grocery store, or convenience store without a doctor’s consent. Many people think that because they do not require a prescription, they are not harmful when they are abused. However, many health complications as well as addiction can occur when a person abuses over the counter drugs.

Just like prescription drugs, over the counter medications change the user’s body functions from its natural state. These changes can be harmful to the mind and body, and many people who abuse them develop an addiction. Over the counter (OTC) medications are abused when a person takes too much of the drug at one time, or has taken it too often. When a person abuses over the counter meds frequently, they will build up a tolerance, dependence, and then an addiction.

Addiction to OTC medications is quite common especially in teenagers and young adults. These groups normally abuse them for the ‘high’ they produce. Elderly people are also known to abuse certain types of OTC meds to fall asleep.

Over the counter cold medications are found in cough syrup and tablet form. The most common abused OTC cold meds contain dyphenhydramine or dextromethorphan. Some will have pseudophedrine, which is a decongestant and can be used to make methamphetamine. Brand names are Robitussin, Vicks, Coricidin, and Nyquil. However, there are a least 125 different types of over the counter cold medications that contain dextromethorphan. Dextromethorphan is not harmful when it is taken properly. However, in high amounts it can cause a ‘high’ feeling, hallucinations, confusion, and numbness. There are even slang terms used when a person is abusing OTC cold medications; such as, robo tripping and skittles.

Over the counter (OTC) sleeping medications can be found in tablet forms and are most abused by young people and the elderly. The most common abused OTC sleeping medications will contain a chemical called doxylamine. Brand names are Amnien, Restoril, Sonata, Excederin PM, and Tylenol PM. When these drugs are abused, they can cause even greater sleeping problems, weaken the body, or cause a condition called narcolepsy.

Over the counter diet medications are commonly found in tablet form. The most common abused OTC diet meds will contain ephedrine and caffeine. Brand names are Dexatrim, Acutrim, and Metabolife. People who abuse diet medications normally do it for three reasons: to get ‘high’, get a boost of energy, or to lose a fast amount of weight. These can cause serious harm to a person’s body when abused; can cause weight difficulties and lead to an addiction.

Although these are less commonly abused, there are still prevalent cases of abuse and addiction that involve motion sickness medication. These come in tablet form and contain dimenhydrinates. The most common abused motion sickness medication is known as, Dramamine. In high doses they can cause a ‘high’ feeling and mild hallucinations.

There are many harmful effects that over the counter drugs can have on a person. For example, when a person abuses or has an addiction to OTC cold medications, they can cause permanent kidney damage. Overdoses and deaths from OTC medications can occur. An overdose on over the counter drugs will depend on the exact drug, what it was mixed with, how much was taken, how quickly it was taken, and the own individuals body makeup.

One of the most dangerous over the counter drug that is commonly abused is called Dextromethorphan or DXM. DXM is found in several types of cough syrups. Over the past ten years there has been an increase in addicts being treated for DXM addiction. Statistics show that between 1999 and 2004, there was a 700% increase in the amount of DXM related overdoses, some ended in death.

Over the counter medications are harmful and lead to an addiction and can be fatal. If you or someone you know is abusing these drugs or has an addiction to them and wants to get help, [email protected] is one such place to try.


Promotion of early detection of breast and cervical cancers in Chiang Mai

Ms. Jeeranun Mongkondee, Regional Director for Thailand and Vietnam, PH-Japan (left) and Mr. Kazuo Shibata, Consul-General of Japan in Chiang Mai (right) sign the agreement to promote early detection of breast and cervical cancers.

The Government of Japan, under its Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects, is providing funds for “The Project to Promote Early Detection and Appropriate Treatment of Cervical and Breast Cancer in Chiang Mai” conducted by a Japanese NGO, PH-Japan. On November 2, 2010, Mr. Kazuo Shibata, Consul-General of Japan in Chiang Mai, and Ms. Jeeranun Mongkondee, Regional Director for Thailand and Vietnam, PH-Japan, jointly signed the funding contract for the project at the Consulate-General of Japan in Chiang Mai.

In Thailand, the leading causes of cancer deaths in women are cervical cancer and breast cancer. Cervical cancer can be detected early and treated with regular screening and appropriate follow-up. A Pap test, which is a screening method for cervical cancer, can help detect suspicious cell changes on the cervix before cancer actually develops. Although regular Pap tests have been recommended for women in a certain age group, the percentage receiving pap tests, especially in rural areas, remains low. For early detection of breast cancer, breast self exams, or BSE, is also recommended to find suspicious changes promptly. However, many women do not know how to perform BSE properly.

PH-Japan has implemented a project for early detection of cervical cancer in Maerim District and Maetaeng District, Chiang Mai Province since 2008. Based on this experience, PH-Japan will start a project targeting women aged 30-60 in Saraphi District and Sankampaeng District to promote early detection and appropriate treatment of cervical and breast cancer in cooperation with the Chiang Mai Provincial Public Health Office.

In response to a request from PH-Japan, the Government of Japan has decided to provide funds amounting to 2,709,300 baht for the first phase of the project. The fund will be used to procure medical equipment, to arrange training for nurses and health staff involved in Pap tests and introductions of BSE, and to arrange seminars for health volunteers playing a key role in raising awareness in communities. It is expected that local public health screening for cervical and breast cancer will be improved and more women will receive Pap tests regularly and practise BSE properly to reduce their health risks.

For more information, please contact Mr. Sato, Consul, Ms. Hoshii, Ms.Hamaguchi, Coordinators for GGP, Consulate-General of Japan in Chiang Mai. 053-203-367. (PR)