An increasing number of people are overdosing on over-the-counter drugs, most frequently women in their teens and 20s, recent research reveals. Medicines used to treat coughs and colds are readily accessible in stores and easy to abuse as a way to escape reality, the research says.

Excessive use of such over-the-counter drugs has grown more popular in recent years, with the number of cases of addiction involving them increasing sixfold between 2012 and 2020, according to data published by the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry.

A more recent study conducted by Saitama Medical University’s Clinical Toxicology Center found that among eight surveyed medical institutions, a total of 124 patients were taken to the hospital for overdosing on over-the-counter drugs between May 2021 and December 2022.