Over The Counter Addictions
Dependent use of over the counter drugs is an old problem but one that is increasing as prescribing laws on certain drugs have been relaxed meaning that they do not require a prescription to be bought from a pharmacy.
They do not result in a direct cost to the NHS as prescription drugs do but the problems that manifest as a result do.
There are two broad categories of users: those that are using the drugs to get a 'high' and others who are supplementing or substituting for drugs that they are not able to get form their GP's for specific health problems, such as weight loss, insomnia or pain.
There are five key groups: codeine and dihydrocodeine products; cough products; laxatives; decongestants; and antihistamines.
There is little empirical research into this phenomenon and no clear patterns to suggest policy or treatment interventions.
Two thirds of UK pharmacists think there is definitely a problem and 21.4 million packets of codeine containing medications were handed over the counter in 2008.
In 2010, 200 people attended formal services in England with an OTC dependency problem, the majority were middle aged females.
There are a variety of possible symptoms associated with problematic OTC use by nature of their diverse pharmacology: dependence, euphoria, electrolyte (blood chemistry) imbalance, convulsions, gastric bleeds, rebound headaches, low potassium levels, in addition to the myriad social problems that arise from the behavioural aspects of dependence.Dr John Richmond