Popular Pills You Shouldn't Take Every Day

Whether you're battling a headache, grappling with insomnia, or trying to get out in front of an upset stomach, chances are your medicine cabinet has the cure you're searching for. And, if the numbers are any indication, you're not alone. According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, retail sales of over-the-counter medications topped out at more than $40 billion in 2022. As far as prescription medication goes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of Americans used a prescription drug within the last thirty days between 2015 and 2018.

However, just because a certain medication is providing some relief for your ailments doesn't necessarily mean that you should make it a part of your everyday routine. In fact, it can be a slippery slope before you find yourself using these medications too often. The Lighthouse Recovery Institute reports that close to 3.1 million people have misused over-the-counter medicines, while 6% of Americans 13 years old and up abuse prescription meds yearly (via the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics). With these facts in mind, it's good to take note of what medications you're taking and how consuming them daily can be harmful.

Sleep aids

Everyone loves to get a good night's rest, and many will go to great lengths to ensure they get it, including taking an over-the-counter sleep aid such as Tylenol PM or ZzzQuil. Per a 2019 study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, more than a third of older adults use some kind of medication to help them get to sleep each night. However, although sleep aids can be beneficial for getting your rest when you need it, overuse can lead to some potentially serious side effects.

Most sleep aids contain the same active ingredient, diphenhydramine, an antihistamine most commonly found in Benadryl (per Harvard Health Publishing). And, while diphenhydramine can make you sleepy, it can also remain in your system for longer than eight hours, leaving you feeling groggy and out of it the following morning. Additionally, a 2019 study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showed that diphenhydramine is risky for older adults due to its side effects, including blurred vision, dry mouth, constipation, and confusion. There is an overall risk of dementia from taking too much diphenhydramine because, according to the University of North Carolina, the drug blocks a brain chemical known as acetylcholine, which is key for short-term memory.  


Ibuprofen, most commonly found in such over-the-counter medications as Advil and Motrin, is an anti-inflammatory medication that can be used to treat a number of maladies, ranging from fevers to everyday aches and pains. Ibuprofen belongs to a class of drugs known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, and, according to a 2010 report from the Oman Medical Journal, is the most commonly used NSAID on the market.

For all the benefits ibuprofen offers, daily use of the drug carries serious risks. A 1998 study published in the American Journal of Medicine showed that NSAIDs were responsible for an estimated 107,000 hospitalizations and more than 15,000 deaths every year. In addition, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen can irritate the stomach, eroding the lining and leading to ulcers and, in severe cases, internal bleeding and perforation of the stomach. According to Nebraska Medicine, ibuprofen can also cause heart problems and kidney disease or even kidney failure. In addition, ibuprofen can be risky for people who have suffered from liver disease, pregnant women in their third trimester, and when taken in combination with certain other drugs. So, while short-term use of ibuprofen for pain management is safe, if you are experiencing prolonged pain, check with your doctor to find a safe treatment that works.   


When taken in moderation, antacids can offer tremendous relief from a variety of stomach issues. As the name suggests, antacids reduce the amount of acid in your stomach by controlling the release of pepsin, an acid produced by the body to break down food. They can be used to relieve such conditions as heartburn, bloating, and stomach issues after eating. 

It can be tempting to rely on antacids to settle your stomach either in the morning or before bed, but relying on them too much can start to cause trouble. For one thing, according to Optum, antacids that are high in aluminum, including Maalox and Mylanta, can, over time, bring down the calcium levels in your body, which can make your bones brittle and lead to osteoporosis. On the flip side, calcium-rich antacids like Rolaids or Tums can cause the calcium levels in your body to rise, leading to kidney stones and other kidney problems. In addition, Healing Duo notes that too much calcium in the body can cause other symptoms, such as palpitations, constipation, high blood pressure, and heart problems. Excessive antacid use can also lead to food sensitivities, according to the Tampa Bay Reflux Center. This is because antacids cause disruption in the process of digestion, and partially digested food that enters the small intestine can trigger an immune response from the body. 


Although similar to antacids, omeprazole, commonly sold over the counter as Prilosec, works differently. Omeprazole is what is known as a proton pump inhibitor or PPI, meaning that its primary function is to suppress enzymes in the stomach lining that produce acid. Given its effectiveness against such conditions as heartburn, acid reflux, and indigestion, omeprazole can be taken daily for a period of time until the condition is under control. However, you should not take it for more than 14 straight days without talking to your doctor. 

Per the National Health Service, taking omeprazole regularly for three months or more can cause the levels of magnesium in your blood to drop. This can lead to dizziness, confusion, muscle spasms, and an irregular heartbeat. Taking it for up to a year could result in such problems as infections in the gut, vitamin B12 deficiency, and bone fractures. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Bone Metabolism showed that the longer people took proton pump inhibitors, the greater their risk of developing bone fractures became. If you need to take omeprazole for an extended period of time, you should only do so under your doctor's supervision.


It's long been maintained that taking aspirin every day can be beneficial for individuals who are at risk for a heart attack or stroke. A common pain reliever and fever reducer, aspirin is also helpful in keeping your blood from forming clots, which can cause both strokes and heart attacks. According to Medical News Today, aspirin is sometimes given to patients immediately following a heart attack to prevent the formation of more clots. 

While there may be certain health benefits to taking an aspirin a day — and ScienceDaily reports that 6 million Americans are doing just that — it's advisable to only do so as directed by your doctor. That's because taking aspirin daily can be very dangerous, as it brings with it a host of potential side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding (via the Mayo Clinic). Johns Hopkins Medicine warns that, if you have a history of gastrointestinal ulcers or gastritis, as well as any bleeding or clotting disorders, you shouldn't take aspirin without talking to your doctor first. Additionally, a 2022 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that there is no overall benefit to daily aspirin use in patients aged 60 and older. 


Suffering from constipation is never a pleasant experience, and anyone afflicted by it will usually do whatever they can to get their bowels moving again as quickly as possible. To that end, when people find themselves in this predicament, laxatives tend to be the first place they turn. There are a number of laxatives that people can take, ranging from the bulk-forming ones, such as Citrucel, to stool softeners (which work exactly as the name suggests).

The relief provided by laxatives can be such that people who tend to suffer from chronic constipation, or people who are hoping to drop weight quickly, may find themselves reaching for them more often, even daily. This is not a wise course of action, according to Brown University. Laxative abuse can lead to a wide array of problems, including dehydration, water retention, blood in the stool, and electrolyte imbalances. Eating Disorder Hope also warns that overuse of laxatives could have the unexpected and unpleasant side effect of stretching out the colon, which can lead to irritable bowel syndrome and, in some cases, colon cancer. In addition, overuse of laxatives can result in "reflex constipation," which, in turn, can only fuel a person's laxative use. The end result is a vicious cycle that no one wants to be trapped in. 


Having been around since the '40s, multivitamins have become a staple of many Americans' health regimen, with an estimated one-third of adults in the U.S. taking vitamin supplements, along with 25% of children and adolescents. They're very popular with people who may not always have the time or the inclination to eat a healthy, balanced diet every day, and therefore rely on these vitamins to help give their bodies the nutrition they're otherwise not getting.

The main problem with continued multivitamin use is that, no matter how much you take them, they simply can't take the place of a proper diet. Moreover, according to Healthline, overuse of multivitamins can result in certain side effects given that they may be higher in nutrients than the average person requires. Multivitamins that are high in calcium can lead to confusion, nausea, vomiting, and problems with your kidneys, while vitamins with a high iron content can cause such severe reactions as lung injury, coma, and even death.


Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that have the ability to treat a wide range of disorders, ranging from insomnia to epilepsy and anxiety. It can also be used in some cases to manage sleep disorders and alcohol withdrawal. They work by triggering the release of a neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which slows the activity of your nervous system. 

Unfortunately, the downside of benzodiazepines is their addictive properties. According to a 2021 report published by Neurology International, benzodiazepines carry with them the risk of extreme dependence, and similarly extreme withdrawal symptoms. Long-term benzodiazepine use is an ongoing problem, as noted by a 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That study showed that, of 576 adults who were prescribed a benzodiazepine between 2008 and 2016, 152 of them still had their prescription a year later. According to the American Addiction Centers, prolonged benzodiazepine use can cause the user to develop such concerning side effects as confusion, dizziness, disorientation, and decreased blood pressure.


What's known as an antitussive, dextromethorphan is a drug that is primarily sold over the counter and is used to help relieve a nagging cough. However, it does not do anything to actually address the cause of the cough itself. It became popular when codeine became a prescription-only drug and dextromethorphan was deemed to be a safer alternative. However, it can be just as habit-forming, and overuse of dextromethorphan can cause a number of side effects, including euphoria, hallucinations, loss of motor control, and, at high doses, a feeling of being out-of-body. 

According to FHE Health, dextromethorphan should only ever be taken while you are experiencing symptoms, and by following the instructions on the label or those given to you by your doctor. If you find yourself still taking it regularly, even after your cough has subsided, you may have a problem. A 2023 report on dextromethorphan toxicity published by StatPearls notes that the recommended dosage should not exceed 120 milligrams in a 24-hour period. If doses exceed 600 milligrams or more, you could suffer seizures, psychosis, coma, or even death.