In an age where you can buy CBD for your dog, cats, and other pets, it seems crazy that cannabis is still illegal on a federal level! There is no doubt that the cannabis industry has come a LONG way over the past ten years, so why are we still dealing with such incredible drug issues and epidemics of prescription medication abuse?
With an ongoing opioid crisis and millions of people dying through legal drug misuse every year, one has to wonder why we are granted easy access to some of the most dangerous drugs in the world — when weed remains out of the question.
In this article, we take a look at five of the most dangerous over-the-counter medications that will make you stop and wonder HOW cannabis is still illegal!
First Things First: What are OTC Medications?
There is often a big emphasis made on how weed can have a positive impact on those who are prescribed drugs that have less than desirable side effects. Whether cannabis results in your symptoms being easier to manage on a smaller dose, or (as in some cases) you can come off your prescription meds altogether – we are seeing more and more stories of this nature, and it’s great news!
However, there is much less information out there on the dangers of those drugs that are super easy to get your hands on. Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can be bought basically by anyone, are usually quite affordable, and require no prescription, making them a potential risk to a range of people.
In theory, to get access to an OTC drug you simply have to walk into a drug store and buy it. Some pharmacists may require more information about your needs and symptoms, but in general, people of all ages can get access to a variety of medications, and they’re not all as safe as you think!
#1 Tylenol (acetaminophen)
Acetaminophen is the most widely used drug in America, and is often used to relieve pain, fevers, cold and flu symptoms, and soreness due to arthritis, muscle aches, and backaches. Like most drugs, acetaminophen comes under many names, and Tylenol is one of the most commonly bought of the lot!
For around $13 you can get your hands on a supply of 50 Tylenol pills by merely turning up at your local pharmacy or grocery store – no prescription necessary.
So while weed remains illegal under federal law, around 50,000 acetaminophen-related overdoses are occurring every year in America alone!
When we look at just some of the reasons weed remains illegal, and then compare it to Tylenol, it seems crazy that the government is backing a drug that has the following side effects:
- Liver damage
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Skin redness
- Skin blistering
To date, there have been no recordings of overdose fatalities associated with weed, and while the plant may cause a few side effects, they have nothing on this list of nasty symptoms!
#2 Plan-B ( Levonorgestrel)
Perhaps a drug that is not often considered particularly risky, Plan-B (otherwise known as the Morning After Pill) is an emergency contraception tablet that is often used as a “backup”. Plan-B can be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, or in cases where birth control has failed to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
The active compound in Plan-B is known as levonorgestrel, which is a Progestin – a hormonal drug which directly affects a woman’s menstrual cycle and pregnancy. The side effects of Plan-B can range from mild to extremely severe, and these effects become worse upon repeat consumption.
With millions of women taking the Morning After Pill each year in America, and a large percentage of these taking the pill more than once, the following side effects can make for quite a concern:
- Weight gain
- Ovarian cyst enlargement
- Gallbladder disease
- High blood pressure
- Respiratory disorders
- Increased risk of ectopic pregnancy
Although cannabis can play no part in the prevention of pregnancy, the mere fact that a drug like this is accessible to a range of women begs the question – why is it legal, and weed is not?
#3 Cough Medicine (dextromethorphan – DXM)
Cough medicine? Yep – that’s right, something as seemingly innocent as cough medicine can have the potential to be incredibly harmful if taken in large doses, so why is it so readily available in supermarkets and pharmacies?
While cough medicine is designed to ease coughing symptoms, the core ingredient DXM is pretty harmful. DXM is actually an opioid and can be found in a wide range of cough and cold medicines, but if taken in high amounts, it can literally get you high – and not in the nice cannabis way we know and love!
Popular amongst teenagers because of its accessibility, cough medicine has the potential to cause some of the following:
- Increased rapid heart rate
- In rare cases, brain damage
Cough medicine tastes fruity and sweet, it’s cheap, and it can be purchased by almost anyone, making it by far one of the most dangerous legal OTC drugs!
This one may come as a surprise, but over 50 million Americans suffer from some form of allergy, and antihistamines are the go-to treatment for the vast majority of them.
Designed to relieve symptoms of itching, coughing, runny noses, skin irritation and other symptoms of an allergic reaction, antihistamines come in a range of forms, from liquid to tablet and even nasal sprays! However, they are also pretty easy to overdose on, and that is where the danger lies.
For those suffering heavily from an allergic reaction that is very debilitating, it is extremely easy to take more than is advised in order to seek faster and more effective relief. However, an overdose of antihistamines can lead to any of the following side effects:
- Irregular heartbeat
For many who have taken sedative antihistamines, this can pose a considerable risk to other activities such as dangers while driving or operating heavy machinery. Unlike cannabis, where an ‘overdose’ may lead you to being sick and falling asleep for a few hours only to wake up groggy and confused, antihistamine overdoses can be incredibly dangerous!
#5 Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)
Commonly known as NSAIDs, these types of medication are the most widely used class of drugs, and are often reached for to combat symptoms of chronic pain and fevers. Some of the most commonly used NSAID drugs are Ibuprofen and Aspirin – both are addictive and not meant for long-term use.
Although these types of NSAID drugs are prescribed to treat both chronic pain and long-term issues such as cardiovascular disease and symptoms stemming from the effects of cancer, their long-term use can be significantly harmful.
Statistics revealed that around 100,000 Americans are hospitalized every year as a result of gastrointestinal bleeding from long-term NSAID use. Of those 100,000, a massive 16,500 will die. These stats reflect prescription NSAIDs alone, so imagine the figures when we look at OTC NSAIDs as well!
Final Thoughts on the Most Dangers OTC Drugs
In 2018, there are more states than ever before opening their arms to medicinal marijuana, and with terrifyingly dangerous drugs still legal on a large scale level, we can only hope that the government soon changes its laws to make way for a more natural and safer way to treat day-to-day health problems.