The following page contains information for parents, caregivers, and teachers about other substances such as party drugs, prescription medications and over the counter medications.

Additional information can be found on the Substances  page or the Health Canada website.

Over the Counter Medications

Over the Counter Medications (OTC) are available without a prescription at drugstores or supermarkets. OTC medicines treat a variety of illnesses and their symptoms including pain, coughs and colds, diarrhea, acne and others.

Some medicines have active ingredients with the potential for misuse at higher than recommended doses. 

Dextromethorphan (DMX)

DMX is a cough suppressant found in many OTC cold medications. It is an opioid without effects on pain reduction, however when taken in large doses DMX causes a depressant effect and sometimes a hallucinogen effect.

Health effects from DMX misuse:

  • Hyperexcitability
  • Poor motor control
  • Lack of energy
  • Stomach pain
  • Vision Changes


Loperamide is an anti-diarrheal medicine available in capsule or liquid form. It is also an opioid designed not to enter the brain but when taken in large amounts and combined with other substances it may cause the drug to act in a similar way to other opioids.

Health Effects from Loperamide misuse:

  • Fainting
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation
  • Eye changes
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Kidney damage

Overdose and OTC medicines:

A person can overdose on medicines containing DMX or Loperamide. As with other opioids, when people overdose their breathing often slows or stops. This can decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain.

For more information on OTC medicines visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Prescription Medications


Many people use benzodiazepines (benzos) such as xanax, klonopin, valium, ativan to manage stress and anxiety disorders. Some people use benzos recreationally to feel calm or euphoric. Like alcohol and opiates, benzos are a depressant. This means combining things like xanax, alcohol, opioids or any combination of these can be dangerous.

Taking benzos with or without a prescription can lead to physical dependence. When benzo use is suddenly stopped or a much lower dose is taken, withdrawal symptoms may appear.  Symptoms can include headache, muscle pain, restlessness, and trouble sleeping.

The risks of misusing benzos can include:

  • Substance use disorder
  • Having an adverse drug interaction which can lead to overdose

If you or someone you know is concerned about their use of benzos, please consult a health care provider. More information is available at Health Canada.

For more information about benzos, including how to reduce your risk, check the Harm Reduction for Benzos resource.

Party Drugs

MDMA (Ecstasy, Molly, E, X, Adam, Beans)

MDMA is an amphetamine which is often used recreationally to increase feelings of connectedness, euphoria, and excitement. It is most commonly taken orally as pills or capsules.  Many are stamped with official looking names or logos, however these stamps do not identify what is in the pills.

Side effects include euphoria, empathy and increased energy, increased sweating, dilated pupils, agitation, psychosis, tremors, trouble sleeping, jaw clenching, increased heart rate and palpitations. Avoid combining MDMA with other illicit drugs or prescription medications as this can cause a toxic reaction.

One dangerous effect of MDMA is that it raises body temperature. This can be a problem if people are taking MDMA in hot places (e.g. raves, crowded parties) or while engaging in physical activity (e.g. dancing). Related health risks include becoming dehydrated if you don’t drink enough water, or drinking too much water which can cause a chemical imbalance.

For more information see the MDMA Quick Reference for Health Care Professionals.

GHB (G, fantasy, liquid ecstasy)

GHB was originally synthesized for use as an anesthetic. It usually comes as a clear liquid with a bitter aftertaste but can also be a white powder fo a bright blue liquid.

Like MDMA, GHB can be used as a party drug. GHB slows down the body and the most common side effects include feelings of euphoria, increased sex drive, and lower inhibitions. GHB can also cause memory lapse, clumsiness and lack of motor control, dizziness or headache, lowered body temperature and heart rate. In Canada it is often known as the date rape drug.

For more information about party drugs, visit the Health Canada website.

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