Many people think over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are harmless, but they can be harmful if misused. Read on to learn about some common examples.

Stimulant-type laxatives are among the most misused OTC medicines. Their active ingredients work by irritating the lining of the intestine. They are often misused by people trying to lose weight, but the people most affected by laxative misuse may be the elderly in nursing homes.

People who take laxatives too often to prevent constipation may becomes dependent on them in order to have a normal bowel movement.

A different form of laxative overuse, intake to the point of diarrhea, may lead to the following complications:

  • Malnutrition occurs if your body cannot absorb certain nutrients before they leave your body.
  • Dehydration worsens your constipation.
  • Sodium and potassium deficiencies can affect a wide range of body systems, including the heart and nervous system.
  • Calcium depletion can contribute to an increased risk for fractures.