If a pill can make you feel better, wouldn’t it make sense that two would make you feel two times as good?
Unfortunately, that’s not true and, in some cases, taking more than the recommended dosages of medications can even be deadly. Medications can have severe and serious consequences if taken improperly, and overdoses — even on over-the-counter drugs — are becoming more and more common.
Acetaminophen, for instance, is a common household drug used to relieve pain and lower fever. Marketed under such brand names as Tylenol and Excedrin, and often used as an ingredient in many cold medications, acetaminophen can cause life-threatening illness and liver damage if taken in excess amounts.
We took a look at some of the dangers of taking too much of other common medications.
What Are the Dangers of Taking Too Much of a Medication?
The opioid epidemic is a big danger to Americans today. The National Center for Health Statistics revealed that there were 70,237 drug overdose deaths in 2017 (a 9.6% increase from 2016), with prescription opioid painkillers being the worst culprit.
More people die from prescription opioid overdoses than from heroin overdoses. The risk of death skyrockets even higher if you combine opioid painkillers with alcohol, benzodiazepines such as diazepam and alprazolam, sedating antidepressants, or anti-psychotics. But, opioids aren’t the only prescription drugs (or even non-prescription drugs) that cause a health risk.
Taking a “high dose” of any medication generally means taking a dose that is more than the highest dose recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A higher dose does not mean better treatment, even if it does make you feel a little better.
Mental health medication, for instance, is often abused with many people taking higher doses than they need. High doses of mental health medication can cause side effects such as increased risk for heart disease, sleeping too much, cognitive problems, weight gain, diabetes, and more. Some mental health medications have also been shown to increase the risk of suicide in children and teens if taken improperly.
As previously mentioned, Paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen, is one of the drugs that leads the pack for accidental overdose hospitalizations. Acetaminophen is prescribed to treat mild to moderate pain from issues like toothaches, headaches, menstrual periods, toothaches, osteoarthritis, and to reduce fever. Although commonly used, taking too much can lead to loss of coordination, low blood sugar, jaundice, liver damage, and death.
If you have diabetes, taking too much insulin or other diabetes medicines can cause your blood sugar level to drop to a dangerously low level.
Don’t Overdo Over-The-Counter Medications
Common NSAID pain relievers hospitalize over 100,000 people and kill 16,500 in the U.S. each year due to overdoses, wrongful combinations, or incorrect usage. Advil and other ibuprofen-like drugs that fall under the name of NSAIDS can cause death and gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers if not taken as directed.
Cough syrup is another over-the-counter drug that could have serious side effects if taken improperly. Cold medicines with dextromethorphan (DXM) can cause hallucinogenic episodes if taken in excess, which also makes it a cheap way for abusers to get a high.
Even Epsom salts can cause problems. While Epsom salts are great for a soothing bath, they are also a natural laxative thanks to magnesium sulfate. While some people do use Epsom salts dissolved in water as a mild laxative, taking too much can rupture your intestines or react badly with herbs or coffee.
Too Many Pills
The bad habit of taking more medication than what is needed is higher in older adults. In fact, a report published by the National Institutes of Health’s Library of Medicine found that prescription medication use increased dramatically among older adults between 1988 and 2010. Overdoses can occur when older adults become confused about which medications they are taking and how many of each they need to take.
Talk with a doctor or pharmacist for ways to manage medications in order to avoid accidental overdoses or serious interactions. It’s important to be aware of the dangers of taking more than your prescribed dosage of either over-the-counter or prescribed medications. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist to make sure you are taking the correct doses and always follow the directions before taking any sort of medication.
If your doctor prescribes medication, your Community Cares Rx Prescription Discount Card can get you up to 70% off generics and 20% of brand name medications. Download your free card today and start saving on medications for your entire family.