These Over-the-Counter Drugs Can Be Just as Dangerous as Rx Meds

Prescription drugs aren’t the only medications with adverse side effects. Over-the-counter drugs, though you don’t need a doctor’s prescription to purchase them, can be just as dangerous. Sometimes, it’s because certain drugs shouldn’t be taken together. Other times, they’re dangerously addicting.

These are the possible side effects of the over-the-counter medications you likely already have in your medicine cabinet right now.

Aleve, and other drugs containing naproxen

White pills spread out on a table.

Don’t use drugs like Aleve as long term solutions to pain. | Loooby/iStock/Getty Images

In general, long-term use of drugs like Aleve isn’t recommended. Doing so can put unnecessary stress on your heart, which can cause side effects like chest pain and muscle weakness. Short-term use involves much milder effects, like heartburn.

Next: Be careful when taking this for a headache.

Aspirin, and other NSAID drugs

A woman drinking medication.

Some of these pills can cause inflammation or vomiting.  | CentralITAlliance/iStock/Gettty Images

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Aspirin reduce fever, relieve pain, and treat inflammation. Less common, but possible side effects of these over-the-counter drugs can include vomiting, and stomach inflammation or bleeding.

Next: Not all addictive drugs must be prescribed by a doctor.

Benylin, and other drugs that contain dextromethorphan

Pile of prescription pills spilling from open pill bottle.

It is possible to get addicted to some cough syrups. | Andromachi/iStock/Getty Images

When we think of addictive drugs, opioids and prescription painkillers usually come to mind. However, some over-the-counter drugs, like certain cough syrups, can become addictive. Sometimes this means you start taking it for reasons other than intended, even if you don’t overuse it.

Next: The FDA had to issue a warning about these.

Fleet, and other sodium phosphate laxatives

A person holds a bottle and pills.

Laxatives can lead to dehydration.  | Theevening/Getty Images

The FDA warns that improper use of these types of laxatives can cause serious, potentially life-threatening health consequences. You can become dehydrated, experience heart problems because of an electrolyte balance.

Next: Have an upset stomach? You might reach for this.

Rolaids, and other drugs that treat indigestion

A doctor giving his patient medicine.

Some medications can harm your stomach further. |

You might take this or another drug containing calcium carbonate to ease the unpleasant symptoms of an upset stomach. Loss of appetite, vomiting, muscle pain, and mood changes can also occur, however.

Next: You’ve likely taken at least one of these drugs before.

Tylenol, and other drugs that contain acetaminophen

Medicine spilled on a wooden floor.

Make sure to read the warning labels and instructions. | Txking/iStock/Getty Images

You have likely taken more than one type of drug containing acetaminophen to relieve a fever or cure a headache. More serious side effects can include severe allergic reactions, and if you accidentally take too much of it, liver damage.

Next: This pain medication can cause more harm than you might think.

Akten, and other drugs containing lidocaine

Pile of prescription pills spilling from open pill bottle.

Watch out for Lidocaine. | Andromachi/iStock/Getty Images

These drugs may cause changes in heart rhythm, seizures, and severe allergic reactions that can block the airways and make it impossible to breathe.

Next: This drug might not be good for your heart.

Sudafed, and other drugs that contain pseudoephedrine

Cough syrup on a spoon.

Sudafed can be dangerous. | SteveMcsweeny/Getty Images

These over-the-counter drugs provide cold, allergy, and hay fever relief by reducing symptoms like congestion. Rarely, people who take drugs like Sudafed experience extreme nervousness or fear, have trouble breathing, and notice drastic changes in heart rate.

Next: Drowsiness isn’t the only side effect of this common drug.

Benadryl, and other diphenhydramine drugs

A woman sleeping in front of a window.

These side effects are not fun. | Marjot/ iStock/Getty Images Plus

Having trouble sleeping? You might reach for Benadryl, or another over-the-counter sleep aid, to help you snooze. Unfortunately, these medications can sometimes cause dizziness, fluttering in your chest, confusion, and other adverse side effects.

Next:Is this drug a dream come true — or your worst nightmare?

Zantac, and other heartburn and acid reflux drugs

A woman suffering from heart burn.

Heartburn medication cause cause negative side effects. | Tom Foldes/iStock/Getty Images

Heartburn isn’t so bad when you can reach for a drug that relieves your symptoms in minutes. Over-the-counter drugs like Zantac can cause serious side effects, though — including weakness, loss of appetite, and problems with your vision.

Next: Is a headache really worth a few of these?

Advil, and other brand-name painkillers

Advil Liqui-Gels in an illustration.

Hearing about these risks might give you another headache. |

If you’ve ever taken ibuprofen for a headache, you know how much relief it can bring. You might not know, however, that taking it regularly comes with specific risks. Vomiting and diarrhea, if not taken care of, can lead to dehydration, which is sometimes hard to detect before it becomes dangerous.

Next: These drugs might have a side effect you didn’t know could kill you.

Rhinocort, and other nasal sprays

Man sneezing in a tissue.

Did you know nasal sprays could affect your immune system? |

One unexpected side effect of certain nasal sprays is that they can reduce your body’s ability to fight off infections or heal quickly from injury. If using over-the-counter drugs like these, getting sick could put you at greater risk for more serious complications. There are prescription and over-the-counter versions available.

Next: Preventing motion sickness might actually make you sicker.

Dramamine, and other antihistamines

A man in a tank top with his hadn't over his stomach and mouth.

Always take the recommended dosage. | Deeepblue/iStock/Getty Images

Drugs taken to prevent symptoms of motion sickness like dizziness and nausea have potentially harmful side effects, especially when taken in dosages other than recommended. In rare cases, antihistamines can cause tremors, seizures, irregular heartbeat, and more.

Next: Sometimes, this drug causes hallucinations.

Robitussin, and other drugs containing decongestants

A woman nursing a sore throat.

The side effects can be very dangerous to your health. |

Robitussin is a combination of decongestant, dextromethorphan, and guaifenesin used to treat cold and similar symptoms. In some cases, these drugs can cause severe changes in mood, hallucinations, tremors, and weakness.

Next: Some people use these drugs to get high, which isn’t their original purpose.

Imodium, and other drugs that contain loperamide

White toilet bowl.

Make sure to check with your doctor before you take antidiarrheal drugs. | ThanaphatSomwangsakul/iStock/Getty Images

Antidiarrheal drugs like these slow down the movement of your intestines in an effort to prevent excess fluid loss. Taking them can cause other problems, though, such as dizziness or loss of appetite. People sometimes even use these drugs to get high.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!