Strategies for preventing abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) medications were explained at the latest instalment of Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar’s (WCM-Q) Grand Rounds series.
Dr Shane Pawluck, assistant professor of Clinical Pharmacy and Practice at the College of Pharmacy, Qatar University, discussed which OTC medications have the greatest potential for abuse, the harms associated with OTC medication abuse, and the ways healthcare professionals can intervene to prevent or address such abuse.
Speaking before an audience of students and fellow healthcare professionals, Dr Pawluck said, “Particularly in the West there is a movement towards deregulation and increased access to more OTC products, as well as higher strengths of drugs, without the need for a prescription. One of the issues here is that in several different research studies it has been proven that the public perceive OTC medications as generally safer than prescription products, which is one of the reasons we find ourselves in the situation where we have some issues with abuse and
misuse of these agents.”
Dr Pawluck described some commonly abused OTC medications, such as certain classes of cough suppressants, antihistamine drugs and decongestants that are abused to obtain effects such as feelings of euphoria, stimulation or sedation. Harmful side-effects of taking more than the recommended dose of one commonly abused substance – dextromethorphan – include hyperthermia, excessive sweating, high blood pressure, elevated heart rate, visual and auditory disturbances, loss of muscle control, fatigue, psychosis, seizures and even coma.
He then discussed strategies for addressing the problem of OTC medication abuse, which include encouraging clinicians to talk to patients in detail about their use of OTC medications, encouraging safe disposal of medications after the ailment has been treated and many more.
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