10 OTC Treatments That May Not Be Worth It

In many stores you can find a wide selection of over-the-counter remedies. These treatments are typically seen as being safe and mild since they do not require a prescription. Unfortunately, some of the treatments that you buy over the counter in a store actually do more harm than good. They may cause further issues without actually addressing the real problem. If possible, you should try to avoid these ten problematic over-the-counter treatments.

Weight Loss Medications

Over-the-counter weight loss medications are not regulated, so they can make all sorts of false claims. Pills claiming to do things like boost metabolism or melt fat are not actually all that effective. Even things that are proven to raise metabolism provide such a tiny boost that the pill cannot even burn away excess calories from half of a cookie! The only true way to lose weight is through simple diet and increased physical activity.

Nasal Decongestant Sprays

As soon as they feel a cold, some people reach for a decongestant spray. These sprays work by shrinking blood vessels in the nose which reduces swelling and makes it easier to breathe. It might provide quick relief at first, but overuse can lead to rhinitis medicamentosa. This is essentially chronic stuffiness that happens whenever a person is not using a nasal decongestant. It happens because the blood vessels become overly swollen any time they are not exposed to nasal decongestants.

Sleeping Pills

When you use sleeping pills, you may find that you wake up feeling groggy and tired. This happens because sleeping pills do not actually address the problems of insomnia. Instead, they essentially just knock you out and make you forget that you woke up several times during the night. The reduction in restorative REM sleep means that you might feel like you did not wake up all night, but you feel tired and sleepy anyways.

Teeth Whiteners

Over-the-counter teeth whitening products tend to fall into two categories. Some of them do almost nothing. They may remove any very recent buildup, but they do not actually deal with stains. Other types of tooth whiteners are far too harsh. They strip open the tiny tubules in the enamel of the tooth to pull away stains. It takes some time for the enamel to be remineralized, and until it does, the teeth are very sensitive and even more likely to stain. If you use too much tooth whitening gel too quickly, you can damage the teeth further, resulting in discolored or translucent teeth. Professional whitening services from a dentist work completely differently from over-the-counter solutions; their hydrogen peroxide-based bleaching gels are much stronger and more effective than anything you will find in a drug store.

Eye Drops

If you suffer from dry eyes, reaching for a bottle of eyedrops can make the whole situation worse. Studies show that oily tears are squeezed out into your eyes each time you blink, but when the glands that produce these oily tears are blocked, your eye will begin to dry up. Artificial tears dilute the oily natural tears in your eyes, so they flush away the most moisturizing part of tears. They also contain several preservatives that can damage and dry out the eye. Drops for bloodshot eyes may dry the eyes further as they shrink blood vessels.


Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol and many types of cough medication. This ingredient might help to heal some pain, but it is currently one of the most dangerous ingredients in over-the-counter medication. The issue is that acetaminophen can damage the liver irreversibly if you take too much of it. Just eight extra strength Tylenol in a single day can be life-threatening. It is particularly dangerous to take it after a night of heavy drinking because the liver is already overloaded at that point. If you must use a painkiller, it is normally better to pick something like ibuprofen that does not harm the liver.


The idea of popping a single pill each day and getting all the nutrients you need is definitely tempting. However, multivitamins normally cannot make up for poor nutrition. The issue is that certain vitamins and minerals can stop the body from absorbing other vitamins and minerals. For example, taking calcium within an hour or two of taking iron can cause a dangerous iron deficiency to develop. There is also a concern that you can end up overdosing on certain vitamins if you eat a lot of the vitamin in your diet and then take a multivitamin.

Cold Medications

Almost every cold or flu drug that claims to reduce congestion relies on phenylephrine. Though this chemical might reduce congestion in high doses, the FDA does not actually allow people to take a large amount at once. In the approved dosage of under 10 milligrams, studies find that phenylephrine does not actually work any better than a placebo.

Exfoliating Scrubs

These are often marketed as the perfect cure for acne ridden people. Physical scrubs with little bits of plastic, ground up walnut shells, and other materials are actually not recommended by dermatologists. Exfoliating scrubs are typically too large to actually cleanse dirt from pores, and they just cause micro scratches that are more likely to get infected and lead to acne. If you want to exfoliate, dermatologists recommend chemical exfoliants like BHA which can often only be used with a prescription.

Proton Pump Inhibitors

Proton pump inhibitors are frequently recommended to heartburn sufferers. These medications halt the production of stomach acid when taken over a long period of time. PPIs claim that users can take them for a month, stop use, and not experience heartburn again. Unfortunately, a study from Copenhagen University found that PPI drugs can cause acid rebound. Essentially, the body begins to overproduce acid to digest food while on the drug, and once a person stops taking it, they may experience even higher and more painful levels of acid reflux.

Because these products can end up causing more problems than they fix, it is generally best to avoid them. Over-the-counter treatments can be good for basic things, but for more serious problems, it is betterto go to a doctor who can provide you with an actual treatment.











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