Americans Abusing OTC Meds Along with Opioids: Study

Prescription opioid pain medications aren’t the only drugs being abused by Americans. Over the counter (OTC) preparations are also falling into that category. The results of a new study conducted by researchers at Boston University School of Health has revealed that close to one in five users of headache remedies like Advil and Aleve doesn’t use the medicine as recommended. They admitted to exceeding the maximum recommended dose during a one-week period.

OTC Medication Use by Consumers Unsafe

People who use too many of these NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers) likely won’t be starting on the slippery slope of moving toward heroin use. That doesn’t mean what they are doing is safe. Dr. David Kaufman, the lead researcher on the study, and a professor of epidemiology at Boston University’s School of Public Health, explained that these drugs can produce serious side effects when taken. Even though they are readily available, it doesn’t mean that consumers can make up their own dose, no matter what the dosing instructions say on the label. Consumers Don’t Read Medication Packages When Dosing Consumers’ attitude that they can choose their own dose, no matter what the label states, along with lack of knowledge about dosing limits, is contributing to exceeding the daily limit, according to Dr. Kaufman. The study was conducted in 2015-2016 by having 1,326 participants keep drug diaries for a week. Participants were, on average, 45 years of age. The majority of them (75 percent) were white, and 60 percent were women. Most of the study participants (87 percent) took ibuprofen, which is sold OTC under brands like Motrin or Advil. Thirty-seven percent of the participants reported they took other NSAIDs like Aspirin or naproxen, such as Aleve.

Chronic Pain Patients More Likely to Take Higher Doses

The study results showed more than 15 percent of the study participants took too many of the pills at least one day of the week. Participants who live with chronic pain were even more likely to take more than the recommended dose. When asked whether non-prescription pill abusers were trying to avoid taking opioids, Dr. Kaufman replied he didn’t think that scenario applied in this instance. He said that avoiding opioids may influence prescribing behavior for physicians, but it may not have a similar effect on consumers.