Monday, October 3, 2011

Over-the-counter drug abuse: a growing concern

Physicians who regularly treat patients with upper respiratory infections are familiar with the 2005 federal law that moved the decongestant pseudoephedrine "behind the counter" to make it more difficult to illegally manufacture the stimulant methamphetamine. Unfortunately, "meth" abuse is only the tip of the iceberg of over-the-counter medication abuse. In an editorial in the October 1st issue of AFP, Drs. Chih-Wen Shi and Margaret Bayard provide helpful tips on recognizing and treating this common problem in the primary care of adolescents and young adults:

When treating a patient for a drug overdose, it is important to screen for multiple drugs, because many OTC cough and cold medications contain more than one active ingredient. Furthermore, overdoses can occur with a combination of OTC, prescription, and illicit drugs, as well as alcohol and other substances. In such instances, toxicity may be additive. Reporting overdoses to poison control centers is crucial so that data can be collected to support policy changes, such as placing an OTC drug behind the pharmacy counter or taking it off the market.

You can find additional current AFP content on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of substance abuse in our AFP By Topic collection.