Alternative Uses of 6 Popular Over-the-Counter Medications

1) Diphenhydramine (Benadryl and most Unisom products)

Benadryl is arguably the most effective antihistamine drug. People often take it orally for allergy symptoms like sneezing, itchy eyes, and hives. It’s also given as an injection along with epinephrine to stop anaphylactic shock in people suffering from a severe allergic reaction to allergens like latex and peanuts.

But here’s where it gets interesting. In addition to being an allergy medicine, diphenhydramine treats issues related to the brain. For example, it reduces tremors and other symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. A study has also shown that diphenhydramine might be helpful in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and general anxiety. This wonder drug can also be used to combat motion sickness and act as a local anesthetic when applied to the skin.

2) Doxylamine (Unisom Sleep Tabs)

Doxylamine is a sedating antihistamine found in Unisom Sleep Tabs used to treat nighttime seasonal allergies and help people sleep. It’s also the active ingredient in NyQuil that makes people drowsy. When used in tandem with vitamin B6, doxylamine has also been used in pregnant women to treat morning sickness, though we wonder how sleepy it makes them at the same time.

3) Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)

Typically used as a decongestant, Sudafed battles a notorious reputation for being the substrate behind the illicit drug, crystal methamphetamine. Outside of treating stuffy noses, pseudoephedrine can be used to treat abnormally long, painful erections (priapism); it constricts blood vessels and reduces blood flow into the penis, so the erection can subside. Off-label, pseudoephedrine has also been used to treat urinary incontinence, particularly when it’s caused by stress.

4) Oxymetazoline (Afrin)

Afrin, like Sudafed, is a nasal decongestant. It comes as a nasal spray and is recommended for short-term use if you have a stuffy nose. It constricts the blood vessels in your sinuses to reduce inflammation and restore air flow. By this same mechanism, oxymetazoline can also be used for nose bleeds and even bloodshot eyes. In fact, it’s the active ingredient in Visine LR eye drops.

5) Dextromethorphan (Delsym)

Dextromethorphan is the active ingredient in Delsym, a cough suppressant, but it has another really interesting application. When combined with the drug, quinidine, it can treat a brain disorder called pseudobulbar affect — also known as emotional incontinence — in which a person loses control of their emotions. Pseudobulbar affect is usually related to brain injury or neurological disorders like ALS, and patients can often be found crying or laughing uncontrollably.

6) Lidocaine (Lidoderm)

Lastly, we have lidocaine, the active ingredient in Lidoderm, a topical anesthetic used to relieve pain locally. Under other formulations, lidocaine can have wide ranging effects on the body. For instance, lidocaine given in an oral form can act as a cough suppressant. Also, when injected as an intravenous (IV) solution, lidocaine can be used as an antiarrythmic medication to stop life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms.

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