OTC Drugs That Could Cause Other Diseases

drug rehabilitation in raleigh NCIf you’ve ever seen a commercial for a prescription drug, you’ve heard the long list of side effects rattled off at the end. You may have even seen the fine print listed in a full page magazine ad. Prescription drugs can have major side effects, and even cause other health problems, so you have to consider those warnings before you start taking them.

Did you know that some over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can also cause more than minor side effects? Recent studies into different types of OTC drugs, such as medication for heartburn relief and cold medicine, have found that they can contribute to other health problems. If you have a friend or family member that needs drug rehabilitation in Raleigh NC, please call Legacy Freedom today.

OTC Drugs and Dementia

A study published last month by the Indiana University School of Medicine examined the relationship between anticholinergic drugs and cognitive impairment and an increased risk of dementia. It is the first of its kind to research the possible culprits for the decline of cognitive functions.

Anticholinergic drugs are used to treat various disorders such as asthma, COPD, insomnia, gastrointestinal issues, sinus problems and motion sickness. They block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain, which keeps the muscles associated with the disorder from moving involuntarily.

For example, Parkinson’s disease affects movement, generally starting as small twitches or tremors that can worsen over time. A prescription anticholinergic drug can block the neurotransmitter in the brain that causes it, which can help improve motor performance and lessen the symptoms.

drug rehabilitation in raleigh NCAlthough most anticholinergic drugs can only be prescribed by doctors, there are quite a few OTC drugs fall into this category. Some may already be in your medicine cabinet. Here is a list of the most common of drugs that have the same anticholinergic properties.

  • Insomnia/Sleep Disorders: Excedrin PM, Tylenol PM, Advil PM, Sominex, Unisom
  • Motion Sickness/Nausea: Benadryl, Dramamine
  • Gastrointestinal problems: Imodium, Pepcid, Zantac
  • Allergies: Claritin, Zyrtec
  • Colds/Coughs: Dimetapp, Benadryl, Actifed

The study may have found a link between cognitive impairment and development of dementia and these drugs. They examined brain scans and analyzed results of memory and cognitive tests to determine if these drugs play a part in declining brain function. Researchers looked at 451 people with an average age of 73. Of the group, 60 took at least one drug with medium to high anticholinergic activity.

The tests showed that people taking anticholinergic drugs performed worse on short-term memory tests than the ones who did not. There was a lower level of glucose metabolism in the brain, which is associated with brain activity. The part of the brain that controls memory and is affected by Alzheimer’s disease had lower levels as well.

Another study, published in 2013, by the Indiana University Center for Aging Research, had also found that drugs with anticholinergic properties caused cognitive impairment in as little as 60 days when taken regularly.

While researchers did feel it is a significant enough risk to consider alternatives to these drugs, they also said that additional studies would need to be done before they would be able to fully understand the relationship between these drugs and cognitive impairment.

OTC Drugs and Kidney Disease

drug rehabilitation in raleigh NCHeartburn, acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and other digestion issues don’t usually go away so many people rely on OTC medicines to provide them relief. However, some of these treatments may cause an increased risk of kidney disease, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

The group of drugs used to treat these problems are called proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs). They reduce gastric acid production. Some are prescribed but there are many types available over the counter, such as Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid.

The study notes that an estimated 15 million Americans were prescribed PPIs in 2013, but with the availability of OTC versions, the number of people who use both kinds is likely to be much higher.

Researchers examined data compared over 170,000 new users of PPIs with more than 20,000 new users of an alternative stomach acid suppression drug, histamine H2 receptor blockers, to see if there were differences in the rate of kidney disease diagnosis.

They found 15 percent of the people using PPIs had chronic kidney diseases compared to 11 percent of those on the alternative drug after following up with them over the course of five years. When other factors were included, such as age and other diseases, it increased the number to a 28 percent chance of developing kidney disease for people who took PPIs. While the risk of end-stage kidney failure was 96 percent higher for people who took PPIs, only less than 0.2 percent of those in the study developed it.

Another study done by John Hopkins University found similar results that linked these drugs with kidney disease. Both researchers are quick to note that the studies show an association but they do not prove causation because other things can influence the development of kidney disease, such as genetics, high blood pressure and diabetes.

PPIs have been linked to other health problems such as increased risk of infection. The drug suppresses acid production so bacteria can grow more quickly, causing pneumonia or C. difficile. It also lowers the body’s ability to absorb calcium and B12, two vitamins needed for strong bones.

Researchers do caution against taking an OTC drug when it’s not needed. If someone needs PPIs long-term, alternatives should be considered. This should be under the supervision of a doctor. He or she may recommend taking them for certain periods on and off for acute cases, rather than taking them daily. For people who have mild symptoms, something as simple as a change in diet could help. If someone in your life is abusing OTC pills, please call Legacy Freedom for affordable drug rehabilitation in Raleigh NC.


Research studies can provide insight into drugs and the effects they can have on the body that were unintended. A drug can treat one problem while potentially causing another one. As the researchers have said in their studies, without additional research, they cannot definitively link the drugs to the disease. The results should be considered by a patient taking the drugs, but they need to be weighed along with the other pros and cons of taking the medication. If you have concerns about the medications you are taking, whether they are prescribed or over the counter, consult your doctor.

Affordable and Dependable Drug Rehabilitation in Raleigh NC | Legacy Freedom

Are you still uncertain what to do, or unsure if you really have a problem with addiction and substance abuse? Would you like to learn more about drug rehabilitation in Raleigh NC? Give us a call at Legacy Freedom Treatment Center. We have admissions counselors who can answer your questions about addiction and treatment programs. We offer customized treatment plans that meet your recovery needs. We know that the programs that benefit someone else may not work for you, especially if you work in the medical field. You won’t find a more comprehensive rehab program in North Carolina. Call us today to learn more.

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