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Reading label in drug storeOver the Counter self medicating is prevalent in the United States and other countries. It's widely accepted to go to a local pharmacy and buy the medication to alleviate unwanted conditions. The FDA has approved these medications for over the counter use with just a number of limitations. According the FDA Office of Nonprescription Products, "Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs play an increasingly vital role in America's health care system. OTC drug products are those drugs that are available to consumers without a prescription. There are more than 80 therapeutic categories of OTC drugs, ranging from acne drug products to weight control drug products. As with prescription drugs, CDER [Center for Drug Evaluation and Research] oversees OTC drugs to ensure that they are properly labeled and that their benefits outweigh their risks."

According to the FDA, OTC drugs generally have these characteristics:  their benefits outweigh their risks;
the potential for misuse and abuse is low; consumer can use them for self-diagnosed conditions; they can be adequately labeled; health practitioners are not needed for the safe and effective use of the product.

Drug manufacturers such as Merck & Co spend not only billions of dollars annually to advertise to consumers, but their seemingly endless resources to lobby for lesser restrictions on their medications.

Over the Counter Limitations
Federal Drug Administration logoWhile the FDA has approved medications without prescriptions, there are a number of medications that are only obtainable through the pharmacist. For example, the emergency contraceptive Plan B, may only be sold once the patient has verified she is old enough to purchase it; or cold and allergy medicines containing the decongestant pseudoephedrine must be sold behind the counter since Congress passed a law restricting sales because the drugs are used to make methamphetamine.
Pharmacist looking over label Responsibility
Open any national magazine or newspaper and chances are you'll find a full page advertisement for over the counter medications for allergies, sleep aides or pain relievers. Although the FDA may approve medications for direct consumer consumption, the responsibility to use the medications properly still lies with the consumer. Mis-use and abuse can occur when not used properly leading down the road to addiction perhaps with stronger means to achieve the same results.
 
Elderly hands being comforted Prescription Drug Abuse in the Elderly
According to an article written by Cathy Meyer, legal investigator in the area of Family and Divorce Law, "An advancing number of drug abusers are addicted to, not illegal drugs, but to medically prescribed drugs. An even more startling fact is that among those abusing prescription medications are the elderly. Incorrectly following the instructions on the medication bottle, mixing medications, forgetting to take medicines, and an inhibition to ask for assistance are all common attributes amongst elderly people that contribute to the abuse of prescription medications. Although this kind of abuse is common in the elderly, it is frequently misdiagnosed by physicians and goes unnoticed by family members."

If you or someone you know has become addicted to over the counter medications,
call our toll free number (877) 340-3602.

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