Is Over-The-Counter (OTC) Medicine Good or Bad for You?


Over-the counter medicines are those medicines that can be bought at a drugstore without any prescription. May it be body pain, cold, flu, constipation and nausea, there are a huge number of people who rely on OTC medicines for a cure. Why do people opt for over-the-counter medicines? Could there be any long term effects on our health and why do doctors recommend prescription medicines are questions this article will shed some light on.

How Does OTC Medicines Affect You?

Well, most opt for OTC medicines due to financial reasons or thinking that they might be facing a simple illness that can be cured without doctor consultation. OTC medicines can affect your health in the long run and cause unpleasant effects. Here are some adverse effects of relying on OTC medication for a long time. 

1. Drug To Drug Interactions

Our body processes and uses each medicine differently and when you take OTC medicines, it can cause drug to drug interactions. This simply means when multiple medicines are consumed at a time, your body can develop side effects. Here are some ways in which drugs can react with other drugs and impact your overall health. 

Drug To Drug Interactions

  • Substitute Medicines: This is when you take medicines that have similar ingredients but only the brand may differ. Most times substitute medicines can give you more than the medicine your body actually needs. Too much of something can hurt your liver or kidneys.
  • Opposite Medicine Reaction: Different medicines with different effects can interact with your body. For example, medicines taken for COVID can help fight the disease but also raise blood pressure levels simultaneously. 

NOTE: Incase you consult more than one doctor, then tell them about the previous medicines taken. This also includes herbal medicines, vitamins and mineral supplements. 

2. Drug & Food Interactions

Sometimes there are certain foods that can interrupt with your medication and this phenomenon is called drug and food interaction. Certain foods can prevent the medicines from doing the job. If you take medicines that are not prescribed to be taken after meals, then there could be a reaction on your health. Not all foods can interrupt with the medicines taken. What matters the most is what you need to eat and when to. 

Drug and Food Interactions

NOTE: Always follow the instructions listed by your doctor and consume the medication before or after meals. In case you are advised to take it in an empty stomach, then follow it. 

3. Allergic Interactions

Some people can face allergies after taking certain medications. These allergic reactions can be rashes, breathing problems and itching. If you ever had any such reaction, it is advisable to stop it immediately and consult a doctor at the earliest. You wouldn’t want to be in a tricky situation, rather consult a doctor about the previous medicines taken as it would give an overview about your health status.

Allergic Interactions

4. Side Effects

What is the meaning of side effects? When medicines taken to heal the cause do not work, instead progresses your symptoms are called side effects. In most cases side effects are not a  pleasant feeling. This unpleasant feeling can be in the form of dizziness, bleeding in the digestive tract or painful headaches. What we need to understand is that allergies are not side effects because it is the medication that reacts with food to cause it. Side effects do not cure the infection, instead progress it.

Side Effects

5. OTC Drug Abuse

Mental medicines are sold usually on prescription basis, but there are a lot pharmacies that do sell it without prescription. These drugs can be addictive thus leaving the individual highly reliant on it. Do not opt for  OTC medicines, rather consult your doctor at the earliest. 

OTC Drug Abuse

Symptoms of OTC Medication

Symptoms of OTC Medication

Anytime you take OTC medicines, be aware of the reactions it has on your body. Take for instance, if your fever is not reducing it can be caused due to some other infection. Always consult your doctor before you take any kind of medicine. Here are some symptoms of relying on OTC medications for a long time. 

  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Mood changes
  • Body irritation; and 
  • Agitation

NOTE: Different medications react differently on your body and it can be hard to know about it. Always consult your doctor before taking any medicine.

Who Shouldn’t Take OTC Medicines?

Healthy individuals taking OTC medicines have less risks of fatal effects. However, if you are suffering from any chronic illness it is not recommended that you opt for OTC medication. Here is a list of those who should not take OTC medicines. 

  • Diabetics
  • People suffering from blood clot problems
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Asthma
  • Prostate cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • Gout
  • Epilepsy
  • Immune deficiency
  • Heart diseases
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney & liver problems
  • Thyroid problems
  • Parkinson’s disease

How Does OTC Medicine Affect Adults? 

You need to understand that the older you get the more prone you are towards getting sick. You may be battling with a chronic illness for years and considering OTC medication can turn out to be fatal for your overall health. Since you already take other medicines for your existing illness, taking OTC drugs can turn out to be life threatening. 

Make it a point to consult your healthcare professional and let him/her know what medications you have or are taking on a daily basis. This will not only help them prescribe the right medicines, but also understand your overall health status. 


OTC medication is not good for your health as it can harm your overall health in multiple ways. However, there are some people who opt for it due to financial reasons too. Government hospitals offer free medical care for the needy and it advised that you avail those benefits. Here are some frequently asked questions that will give you an insight into some of its other facets. 

1. What questions to ask your doctor when you’re sick?

Here are some questions to ask your doctor during consultation. 

  • How would I feel if I took the medication?
  • Should the medicine be taken with or without food?
  • For how long should I take the medicine?  
  • Should I take it on an empty stomach?
  • Would I develop any kind of side effect?
  • Would there be any reaction on my health because I also take other supplements?
  • In case my symptoms are not reducing, what do I do? 

2. How can OTC drug abuse harm your health? 

Non-prescribed drugs such as anti-stress medicines can harm your overall health if taken on a regular basis. You can be of higher risk of developing memory loss, heart problems, kidney failure or even death. Consult your doctor before taking any medicine. 

3. How can OTC medicines create antibiotic resistance? 

Sometimes you may ask for a medicine to cure viral fever and the druggist may sell you some without  prescription. This drug can be an antibiotic and not cure your illness as given. Moreover, you may consult a doctor and explain your sickness and take medicines as prescribed. 

Suddenly, you begin to notice that the prescribed medicine is not curing. This is because you need to take the right kind of medicines for the right kind of sickness. Your body resists the medicines because it is used to it. Thus a new one needs to be prescribed to fight your sickness. 

4. How long does viral infections last?

Viral infections last not more than a week or two. Incase you fall sick, make it a point to consult your doctor to avoid fatalities. 

5. How do you know if you have viral infection?

Here are some signs you may experience if you have viral infection. 

Relying on over-the-counter medicines can be dangerous and lead to OTC drug abuse or result in extreme side-effects in future. However, it is advised to consult your healthcare professional to avoid fatalities. Live healthy, Stay Safe!


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