Over-the-Counter Medication: Addictive Epidemic

At Eden Recovery and Rehabilitation Centre we understand that we live in an age that is dominated by advance medicine that can solve a problem instantaneously by consuming a wonder tablet. We are conditioned to trust the “system “and consume whatever is available to us without questioning anything or anybody. But where do we draw the line when the misuse of medication is ultimately because of us and not a physician. OTC medication is affecting a large number of the population and has developed into a serious problem over a number of years in South Africa. At Eden Recovery and Rehabilitation Centre we talk about substance misuse or abuse. This refers to the use of a drug that deviates from approved social or medical patterns usually through self-administration e.g. using painkillers, readily available at pharmacies, grocery stores and even online stores.

Codeine is one of the most destructive culprits in South Africa and is considered highly addictive. Codeine, found in tablet form or cough mixtures, is a narcotic pain-reliever and cough suppressant similar to morphine and hydrocodone and is part of the opioid family. When an individual consumes the medication containing codeine, it enters the body and eventually makes its way to the brain. Here the codeine binds to receptors in the brain that are responsible for transmitting sensations of pain through-out the body. The fast acting affect quickly decreases any level of discomfort and reduces the pain. Codeine is found in a number of medications including Myprodol, Mybulen, Benylin C, Synodol and Sinutab C to only mention a few. According the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in America there are more than 300 000 OTC products on the market. This is a massive amount of potential addictive substances. At Eden we know that many people use OTC medication to gain a “legal High” if you will. They consume massive amounts of tablets or bottles containing cough mixtures. But we also know that many people don’t know what they are really taking. A large number of these individuals act on advice from friends or family or abide by acceptable social constructs, so they believe. When these individuals take various kinds of substances together the way they affect the body can change. This theory is called drug-drug interaction. The theory postulate that a person taking different medications will have an increased risk for side effects and the main interaction types are: Duplication, Opposition and Alteration.

Duplication occurs in the body when you take two types of medicines that have similar active ingredients. Essentially it can give you “way more than you bargained for. This can result in damage to your kidneys. Opposition occurs when consuming medicines with opposite effects. For example using OTC decongestants may raise your blood pressure and this can act on medication that lowers your blood pressure. The final interaction type is known as Alteration. Here one medicine can potentially change the way your body absorbs, spreads, or processes other medicines.

Regardless of how these substances work in our bodies, one is clear they are extremely addictive and potentially deadly. They can lead to symptoms like, but not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Decreased libido
  • High blood pressure
  • Migraines
  • Addiction

Guideline to follow when taking OTC medication:

  1. Always try to limit the consumption of OTC medications. Essentially only take them when you really need them.
  2. Explore alternative more natural options for pain. For example ginger, turmeric, lavender and sage to mention only a few.
  3. Always talk to your physician or pharmacist first and do your own research. Don’t forget to ask as many questions as you need, ultimately the medication will enter your body not the physician’s.
  4. Don’t take medicine with alcoholic drinks.
  5. Always follow the directions on the package.

At Eden Recovery and Rehabilitation our dedicated team of professionals aim to assist any individual and their families that may have fallen victim to OTC medication addiction. This is a serious problem in South Africa and at Eden we aim to fight the battle each and every day with commitment, knowledge and dedication. We believe if you treat the disease you won’t be as successful as treating the person.