What Over-The-Counter Medications Can Trigger A Relapse?

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Over-the-counter medications are used to treat a variety of health conditions. However, some may trigger people in recovery from drug addiction to begin using substances again.

Can OTC Meds Trigger A Relapse?

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are used to treat a multitude of everyday health problems, including seasonal allergies and the common cold.

However, issues with the use of some OTC medications due to their particular effects may arise for people in recovery from substance use disorders.

Because these effects may mirror those caused by stronger drugs, such as prescription opioids and methamphetamine, which are typically involved in drug addiction, they can act as a trigger and cause a relapse.

OTC Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter painkiller drugs are on the list of frequently abused OTC medications, and thus they may contribute to a relapse.

OTC pain medications include but aren’t limited to:

  • acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • naproxen (Aleve)
  • ibuprofen (Advil)
  • aspirin

While these OTC drugs are generally safe to use as directed for their intended pain relief healthcare purposes, they may serve as a trigger for people in recovery from opioid or opiate abuse.

Research in 2021 found that 3.1% of adults over the age of 21 misused prescription painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, or codeine over the past 12 months.

Decongestants And Antihistamines

Most allergy medications fall under the category of decongestants, antihistamines, or a combination of both. They are typically found in the form of pills or nasal sprays.

Recently, there has been a rise in allergy medication misuse among young people. Trends like the “Benadryl Challenge” may perpetuate recreational OTC drug use by adolescents and teens.

Misusing these drugs may lead to:

  • sedation
  • euphoria
  • hallucinations

Because of the similarity of certain allergy medication’s side effects to the side effects of frequently abused drugs, people in recovery should take extra precaution when taking these OTC medications.

Cold And Flu Medications

OTC medications to treat cold and flu symptoms also pose a concern for people in recovery.

Similar to OTC allergy medications, side effects of pseudoephedrine and dextromethorphan include euphoria and hallucinations, making them triggering for some people.

Cold and flu meds are also sought out by teenagers for “pharming.” Drugs containing pseudoephedrine, like Nyquil, may be mixed with soda and candies to make a mixture called “lean.”

Preventing Substance Abuse Relapse

While OTC medications are generally considered safe, they pose particular risks for people in recovery from substance abuse.

Taking an OTC medication that has side effects similar to desired side effects from drug abuse may trigger a person in recovery to experience the first stages of relapse: emotional and mental relapse.

Frequently abused OTC medications may also serve as a trigger for people in recovery due to their easy access, socially accepted use, and more.

Addiction treatment centers can help people develop a relapse prevention plan that includes measures to address OTC drug use.

Addiction Treatment Programs

Sometimes, moral support from peers may not be enough to suppress the cravings of drug addiction, a chronic but treatable mental health condition.

Addiction treatment programs and detox centers can help treat withdrawal symptoms in a safe environment.

To help break free from drug dependence, rehab and detox facilities offer a multitude of treatment options that are tailored to the individual’s experience.

From providing behavioral therapies to developing specific treatment plans, these centers can help people achieve lasting sobriety.

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If you or a loved one is experiencing unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal, visit DetoxRehabs.net today for information on how and where to get help.


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