Over the Counter Substance Abuse

Over the counter substance abuse is a dangerous and growing phenomenon that has persisted in American culture for decades. From the prolific abuse of Robitussin in the 1960’s to the use of bath salts today, people have sought out new ways to get high that are often far more dangerous than typical street drugs. However, because not everyone has access to or can afford street drugs, many people have resorted to getting high off whatever they can pick up at their local supermarket or retailer. In fact, the types of seemingly benign products that people are getting high from just might surprise you.


Drugs like Sudafed have been greatly sought after for decades to be used in the manufacture of methamphetamines. When taken in excessive doses the drug acts as a powerful stimulant similar to most types of speed. Recent legislation in the United States has greatly tightened the control of this and similar drugs by the FDA. Most states now have limits on the amount of Sudafed that a person can buy and any attempt to buy more than this amount will raise immediate red flags.


Robitussin, also referred to as Robotussin, is a powerful expectorant that people have been using to get high since at least the 1960’s. While originally meant to reduce coughing, the drug reportedly produces a powerful high that features intense hallucinations. Addiction to Robitussin can occur rapidly because its effects are so powerful – some users describe a high lasting several days after drinking just one 8 ounce bottle, accompanied by intense cravings for more of the drug. Use of this drug is especially popular among people who are already being treated for another type of drug addiction because it cannot be detected by most traditional methods.


Concentrating and inhaling propellants found in products like Glade or even furniture polish produce an intense but very short high lasting only 20 to 30 seconds. However, this practice is extremely dangerous and can result in brain damage and even death from acute pulmonary distress. People who abuse inhalants often place a towel over the top of the dispenser in order to avoid tissue damage from the extreme cold temperature released when concentrating inhalants. Some users have frozen their lips and tongues, requiring surgical removal of dead tissue.


Dramamine and drugs like it are meant to reduce instances of nausea and vomiting caused by motion sickness. The drug works to regulate functions in the control and balance center of the brain. But when taken to excess Dramamine can produce vivid hallucinations that can cause the user to act in a bizarre or even dangerous manner.


Bath salts are powdery substances that are sold for users to place in their bath water for relaxation and entertainment purposes. But when inhaled or smoked these substances produce a high that most users say is extremely unpleasant, but creates nearly immediate urges to use it again and again. These drugs are especially dangerous because they were never intended for human consumption. Several states have already enacted emergency legislation in an effort to develop control protocols.

These are just are few of the many over the counter substances that people are using to get high. All of them are just as dangerous as street drugs like heroin and ecstasy, and some are even more dangerous. Ultimately, a drug is a drug and people will constantly seek new and ever more inventive ways to get high. If you or someone you love has developed a problem with an OTC substance, call our Florida drug rehab center now for a free consultation regardless of where you are. We’ve seen and heard it all and have the skills and resources to get you the right help, right now.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.

You aren't alone. You deserve to get help.
Recovery First is located in Hollywood, Florida, which is easily accessible from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. Our small groups means you get more one-on-one support and make stronger connections with the community. Take the next step toward recovery: learn more about our addiction treatment programs near Florida's Atlantic coast or learn about how rehab is affordable for everyone.