Officials: Over-the-counter drugs can be dangerous

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – Officials say most Kentuckians are aware of the hazards of using illegal drugs and abusing prescriptions, but many don’t know that over-the-counter medications can be just as dangerous.

They say of the nearly 50,000 calls to the Kentucky Poison Control Center of Norton Children’s Hospital last year, more than 14,000 were about medication exposures in adults, many of whom had made mistakes when taking medication.

Some of these cases led to symptoms that could be managed at home while others led to changes in heart rate and blood pressure that required medical care, according to Kentucky Poison Control Center.

“Many people don’t realize that when used incorrectly, over-the-counter medications can have serious consequences,” said Maria Chapman, poison prevention coordinator with the Kentucky Poison Control Center.

According to the Kentucky Poison Control Center, here are the most common mistakes adults make with over-the-counter medicines:

Not reading the label: This can lead to taking too much medicine or taking it too often, which can cause an overdose.

Not knowing the active ingredients: Many over-the-counter medications have the same active ingredient, which can lead to an overdose if multiple medications are taken at the same time. Some ingredients also can have negative reactions with daily prescriptions medications.

Not measuring the correct dosage: For liquid medications, using kitchen measuring spoons or the measuring device from a different medication can lead to an overdose. Always use the dosing device that comes with the medication.

Keeping leftover medications: Keeping old prescription and over-the-counter drugs means they can fall into the wrong hands. The potency of medicines also changes over time, which can lead to reactions when taken.

Chapman recommends disposing of medications properly.

“Most over-the-counter medicines can be safely disposed of by mixing them with kitty litter or used coffee grounds in a zip-top bag or other container,” she said. “However, some more potent medications need to be disposed in a specific way to reduce the risk of exposure to others. Many pharmacies and law enforcement offices have medication disposal boxes. The Kentucky Poison Control Center can help you determine the correct way to dispose of a medication or direct you to the nearest drop-off location.”

March 17 to 23 is National Poison Prevention Week. The goal of the week is to raise awareness about the risk of being poisoned by household products, medications, pesticides, plants, bites and stings, food poisoning and fumes. More information and a list of drug disposal sites are available at

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