Some of Those Drugs in Your Parents’ Medicine Cabinet Can Wreck Your Body and Mind

Maybe you’ve noticed that your mom or dad have a medicine cabinet filled with meds. Wondering how they’ll affect you? Curious as to whether or not these drugs can benefit your life? This article will inform you how these drugs work and what they do. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.

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ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Maybe you’ve noticed that your mom or dad have a medicine cabinet filled with meds. Wondering how they’ll affect you? Curious as to whether or not these drugs can benefit your life? This article will inform you how these drugs work and what they do. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.

ESTIMATED READING TIME: Less than 10 minutes.

Table of Contents:

What Kind of Drugs are in Your Mom’s or Dad’s Medicine Cabinet?

Most likely, your home’s medicine cabinet contains both over-the-counter and prescription medication. Some of these drugs are meant to treat common sicknesses while others are a bit more complicated. Some Rx drug are used to treat larger problems, such as chronic pain or mental illness.

So, you may assume that your parents’ over-the-counter medication is safer and less addictive … but that isn’t necessarily true.

In fact, people abuse over-the-counter medication in a variety of ways. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these include:

  • Combining over-the-counter medication with other drugs.
  • Taking a dose of the medication that’s higher than needed.
  • Taking the medication in a way that isn’t recommended on the package.
  • Taking over-the-counter medicine just to get high.

The most commonly misused over-the-counter medications are cough suppressants containing Dextromethorphan (DXM) and Loperamide. Let’s look into these drugs further and see the negative consequences which can arise from abusing them.

Dextromethorphan (DXM)

It’s very likely that the last time you felt ill with a cold, you took a cough suppressant containing DXM. This antitussive – or cough suppressant – is found in more than 120 different over-the-counter cold medications and usually is mixed with other drugs including:
  • Analgesics (acetaminophen)
  • Antihistamines (chlorpheniramine)
  • Decongestants (pseudoephedrine)
  • Expectorants (guaifenesin)

When DXM is taken in large doses, it can create a sense of euphoria as well as both visual and auditory hallucinations. Considering how easy it is to obtain, this is the main reason people want to trip on DXM. Common street terms for using DXM in this fashion are “robotripping” and “skittling”. However, it’s common for those who take too much DXM to also feel the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting

A person who abuses DXM also may develop a rash due to the fact that the medication isn’t designed to be taken in large quantities. Furthermore, DXM also holds potential for overdose. Sometimes, people who abuse DXM will experience the following overdose symptoms:

  • Blue-colored fingernails and lips
  • Change in vision
  • Coma
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Hallucinations
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Muscle twitching
  • Nausea
  • Raised body temperature
  • Seizures
  • Spasms
  • Unsteadiness
  • Vomiting

If you or anyone you love experiences these symptoms, it’s vital to immediately call 911 or the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222.


If you’ve experienced diarrhea, you may be given the over-the-counter medication known as loperamide. Furthermore, if either of your parents ever experienced an opiate addiction, they may have been given loperamide as a means of easing withdrawals.

This medication is an opioid designed to act similarly to other opioids, such as heroin, but doesn’t enter the brain. Instead, it’s meant to attach areas of the body responsible for:

  • Arousal
  • Blood pressure
  • Breathing

When taken in large quantities, loperamide can act similarly to other opioids in the sense that it creates euphoria. When misused, loperamide can lead to the following consequences:

  • Erratic heartbeat
  • Eye changes
  • Fainting
  • Kidney problems
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Stomach pain

Loperamide abuse has become such a problem in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently in the works of producing single-dose/limited-dose packaging.

Insights into Prescription Medication

As discussed, your medicine cabinet may contain prescription medication. These drugs hold stronger potential for abuse and harm as they are usually created to treat larger problems. The different types of prescription medication liable for abuse can be categorized into three separate sections:
  • Depressants
  • Opioids
  • Stimulants

Though these drugs are stronger, they’re also harder to come by. Medical doctors need to prescribe the medication in order for you to access it. Still, these drugs have made an appearance on the streets since more of them are being produced and prescribed.

It’s important to be aware of the dangers involved in taking these medications. Researchers have discovered people unaware of these risks can develop an addiction – even if you’re taking the medicines AS PRESCRIBED – which leads to seeking harder drugs on the streets. Prescription medication is one of the primary reasons for America’s opioid epidemic.

Here’s a brief look at common Rx drugs you might find and what they can do to you.


One of your parents may be prescribed depressants if they have anxiety or trouble sleeping. These medications are designed to slow down (depress) standard functions of the brain. Even if the person prescribed the medication follows their doctor’s orders, there remains a risk of dependence or addiction developing. These risks are furthered when depressants are abused.

There are three standard categories for depressant medications list below. Alongside them are the common drugs that hold high potential for abuse.

1. Barbiturates

◦ Mephobarbital (Mebaral)
◦ Sodium pentobarbital (Nembutal)

2. Benzodiazepines

◦ Alprazolam (Xanax)
◦ Clonazepam (Klonopin)
◦ Diazepam (Valium)
◦ Estazolam (ProSom)
◦ Lorazepam (Ativan)

3. Sleep Medications

◦ Eszopiclone (Lunesta)
◦ Zaleplon (Sonata)
◦ Zolpidem (Ambien)

Though these drugs are meant to slow down the brain, they increase the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This chemical is involved in certain actions of the brain including how calm you feel or how drowsy you are. The initial effects of using this medication include:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Light-headedness
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Problems with movement and memory
  • Slowed breathing
  • Slurred speech

However, the long-term effects can be much more severe. Not only can you develop the very mental health disorders depressants set out to treat, but your body can also face consequences such as a seizure or overdose.

If you or someone you love is currently addicted to depressants, it’s important to seek treatment. Help is available!


When someone faces a serious injury and is experiencing chronic pain, they’ll most likely be prescribed opioids for pain relief. Prescription opioids attach to receptors in the brain which then travel through the body via neurotransmitters. Opioids target areas of your brain that send pain messages – ultimately, reducing these signals. They also can attach to areas where you feel pleasure, such as the reward system.

Common opioid prescriptions are:

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Tapentadol

The reason these drugs are so dangerous that your body already naturally produces these chemicals. When you take opioids, you’re blocking off your body’s organic production of the chemical. With enough time, your body becomes so adjusted to you taking the drug, it forgets how to naturally produce these chemicals and must relearn. This is why people who struggle with an opioid addiction can feel chronically depressed when they quit.

The consequences that opioid use can have on your health range are categorized by short-term and long-term. Short-term effects are what can happen immediately after taking the drug. Long-term effects come about after you abuse the drug for a period of time.

Short-term health effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Paranoia
  • Respiratory depression
  • Sedation
  • Vomiting

The long-term effects include:

  • Abdominal distention and bloating.
  • Brain damage
  • Constipation
  • Dependence
  • Liver damage
  • Nausea
  • Tolerance development
  • Vomiting

Furthermore, the biggest risk when it comes to using opioids is an overdose. This occurs when someone takes too much of an opioid and, inevitably, the drug causes either the slowing or stopping of their breathing. This can ultimately result in death. It’s important to be aware of the signs of an opioid overdose:

  • Person’s face grows pale and/or feels clammy.
  • Their body goes limp.
  • Their breathing or heartbeat stops.
  • Their fingernails or lips turn a blue or purple color.
  • They begin vomiting or making gurgling sounds.
  • They can’t be woken up or aren’t able to speak.

If you’re with someone who overdoses on an opioid, you must CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY! It’s possible to reverse the effects of an overdose and emergency service have the ability to do this. Particularly, through the administration of naloxone.

Though it’s not common, you may have some naloxone lying around the house. If so, it’s vital you administer it into the person overdosing on opioids as soon as possible. This medication can stop an overdose by blocking opioid’s effects in the body. To properly administer naloxone, inject it into the muscle or spray it into the nose. If you don’t have access to naloxone, there are still some actions you can take:

  • Attempt to keep the person awake or breathing.
  • Don’t leave the person until emergency services appear.
  • Lay the person on their side to avoid choking (usually from vomit).

Opioids have already taken a large number of lives. In order to prevent this from happening to someone we love, it’s important to seek out treatment as soon as possible. Though opioids are difficult to quit, it’s not impossible. We promise you or your loved one has the ability to beat addiction!


You may find stimulant prescriptions in your parent’s medicine cabinet if either suffers from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy – the inability to control prolonged periods of deep sleep. The purpose of these medications is to increase:
  • Alertness
  • Attention
  • Energy

With stimulants, there’s strong potential for misuse. Particularly, people in school or who need to crash study abuse prescriptions such as Adderall for the sake of getting a large amount of homework done in a single period. Not only is this highly dangerous, but like opioids, can have both short-term and long-term health effects.

Common prescription stimulants are divided into two categories:

1. Amphetamines

◦ Adderall
◦ Biphetamine
◦ Dexedrine

2. Methylphenidate

◦ Concerta
◦ Ritalin

These drugs are designed to raise levels of activity for certain brain chemicals, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. In turn, this causes the body to feel energized and the brain to feel rewarded. The short-term health effects of this rush may include:

  • Decreased blood flow
  • High body temperatures
  • Increased/irregular blood pressure and heart rate
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Increased breathing
  • Heart failure
  • Opening of breathing passages
  • Seizures

People who abuse prescription stimulants put themselves at risk of agitation, psychosis, and paranoia. Furthermore, there’s also a chance of overdose if too much of the drug is administrated.

Long-term health consequences include:

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Hallucinations
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lethargy
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attack
  • Paranoia
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Tremors
  • Weight loss

For the sake of your brain and body’s health, it’s important to stay away from these medications. If you or someone you love is already addicted to prescription stimulants, find treatment. Below, we’ve listed some options to ease your search.

Where to Find Help

Finding help for a drug issue can be tricky. Many people aren’t entirely sure where to look when they first make the decision to quit or to help someone trying to quit. Luckily, there are a wide variety of options at your disposal.

First, you’ll want to consult your doctor or physician. He/she will have the reference as to where the best addiction treatment centers are within your area. From there, you can begin researching different types of treatment programs and their requirements. This is essential as you’ll want to pick a facility that best matches your needs. If you’re looking for a more precise search, there are a few internet search engines at your disposal:

Also, you’ll want to be on the lookout for support groups either outside or within your treatment program. These are essential as they’ll help you along the recovery process and keep your head up through sobriety.

If you’re in need of immediate help, here are some hotline numbers available to contact:

  • Call us on the phone number above.
  • National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI): 800-729-6686
  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Hope Line: 800-475-HOPE (4673)
  • National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Service: 800-622-4357
  • National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 800-273-TALK (8255) or 800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
  • Substance Abuse Helpline (available 24/7): 800-923-4327
  • Relapse Prevention Hotline: 800-RELAPSE (735-2773)

We’d also love to help.

Give us a call. We’re here 24-7 … and won’t judge you for stealing meds …

We understand addiction.

We hope to hear from you.

Your Questions

If you have any further questions pertaining to over-the-counter or prescription medication and the dangers these have on your health, we invite you to ask them below. If you have more information in regards to this topic or advice for anyone struggling with addiction, we’d also love to hear from you.

We try to reply to each comment in a prompt and personal manner.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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