A paper in the British Medical Journal has warned consumers against becoming addicted to over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. The paper, by Christine Ford and Beth Good, describes three cases where patients began using the drugs as recommended, but quickly became addicted to them.
The patients were taking Nurofen Plus, which is a combination of codeine phosphate and ibuprofen. Codeine is a known opiate and a drug dependence inducing substance. The paper said all patients were suffering from the side effects of taking the drugs including gastrointestinal bleeding. Furthermore one patient was consuming a whooping 0 tablets a day as compared to the necessary six.
"Thousands and thousands of people take these drugs and don't have any problems. It's a very small minority who do," Dr Ford said. "But our anxiety is that it's a problem which is not being picked up by the public or doctors, and that we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg."
Codeine is a drug normally available on prescription, but it is available over the counter when combined with aspirin, ibuprofen and paracetamol.
The doctors found no documented evidence of OTC drug addiction in the UK, but say that many websites are dealing openly with the issue. One website says at least 4,000 people are addicted to Solpadeine (paracetamol and codeine).
"I think addiction to over-the-counter medicines has been going on for a long time but many doctors do not pick up on it, partly because their patients do not mention it," Dr Ford added. "It is a bit like having an alcohol problem. You are not going to tell someone that you are taking 13 Nurofen Plus a night.”
GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Solpadeine, said they took OTC abuse seriously, but added the problem was very rare. "There are clear instructions for use on our labels, and if these are followed there is no evidence that the product will cause dependency," a spokesman said.
"There are clear instructions for use on our labels, and if these are followed there is no evidence that the product will cause dependency,"
Sounds pretty familiar huh?