Self Care Pharmacy Blog

Archive for the ‘Other’ Category


The Truth about Graying Hair Prevention Supplements

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

by Caleb Lyman, Cedarville University PharmD student

It has always been an accepted fact of life that as you age so does your body. One of the most noticeable signs of this aging is the development of gray hair. While some may be indifferent or even look forward to this process, many often wish they could keep their colored hair for their whole lives. Recently a news article was published which discussed possible over-the-counter products that claim to allow users to keep their hair just how they like it. While the desired outcome is simple, the molecular processes that make this possible are rather complex.

The USA Today article entitled Can Enzyme Supplements Really Keep Hair from Going Gray? contains very interesting information about over-the-counter treatments for the prevention of graying of hair. According to the article, the beauty product company L’Oreal is in the process of researching and developing a new product that is designed to stop the progression of gray hair development before it even begins.1 While it will still be a year or so before L’Oreal has a final product, the article additionally brought to light products that are already available for use. Such products are based off the assumption that as one ages, a certain enzyme, catalase, becomes less prevalent in one’s body.2 Catalase is responsible for removing hydrogen peroxide from the body and when hydrogen peroxide is not removed, a number of results take place, including the bleaching of hair.3 The article also reported the opinions of two respected doctors who stated they were wary of suggesting such a product that is not founded in scientific evidence.1 However, these experts sounded very interested to see if these products did indeed function properly.1

 The principles behind these products are fairly well backed up by science. Catalases are enzymes that have been greatly studied and much is known about their structure and function in the body.4 As stated in the article, a main purpose of catalase is to catalyze the reaction that converts potentially harmful hydrogen peroxide into harmless water and oxygen.5 If the hydrogen peroxide is not converted to water and oxygen it can damage the body as it is or it can be converted to an even more dangerous molecule known as the hydroxyl radical. Hydrogen peroxide is often used as a bleaching agent outside of the body and is effective at bleaching both hair and skin.3 While catalase does its job efficiently and effectively6 it is not the only molecule that is relied upon to handle hydrogen peroxide. Glutathione peroxidase was discovered in 1957 and was shown to work in a similar fashion as catalase.7 That being said, a lack of catalase may not entirely account for gray hair and consequently these supplements may not be adequately correcting the issue they are attempting to resolve.

Despite the seemingly large amount of science behind this topic, there are a number of factors that this article and the makers of these products failed to take into account. First of all no actual controlled experiments have been conducted on these products. Since they are supplements and not directly accountable to the FDA1 this is understandable but it would be much more convincing if there was evidence to say these products do what they so they do. An additional limitation is that there is no science reporting that catalase enzymes decrease in significant amounts across the span of one’s lifetime, potentially meaning these products are not solving the problem they intend to solve.

Pharmacists have a responsibility to watch out for the good of their patients and if they feel uncomfortable with a particular drug they should let their patients know that. Additionally pharmacists should inform patients that supplements are subject to different regulations than other drugs and there is potentially more room for supplement manufacturers to provide misinformation about their products.8 Particularly with OTC drugs and supplements, pharmacists need to be involved in the decision process so that unqualified patients are not on their own when it comes to choosing a safe and effective option to solve their health issue. When everything is considered, I agree with the doctors quoted in the article. I would be very hesitant to recommend this product since its adverse effects have not been studied. However, I am interested in knowing what comes of these products since they seem to be based on good science, if only theoretically.

Would you recommend these catalase enhancing products to your patients? Do you think that preserving one’s physical appearance is worth possible side effects? Do you think such products should be subjected to less scrutiny since they are supplements and not actual drugs?



  1. Healy M. Can enzyme supplements really keep hair from going gray? USA Today. 2013. Available at: Accessed October 17, 2013.
  2. Semsei I, Rao G, Richardson A. Changes in the expression of superoxide dismutase and catalase as a function of age and dietary restriction. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1989;164(2):620-5.
  3. Tredwin CJ, Naik S, Lewis NJ, Scully C. Hydrogen peroxide tooth-whitening (bleaching) products: review of adverse effects and safety issues. Br Dent J. 2006;200(7):371-6.
  4. Chelikani P, Fita I, Loewen PC. Diversity of structures and properties among catalases. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2004;61(2):192-208.
  5. Grant CM, Perrone G, Dawes IW. Glutathione and catalase provide overlapping defenses for protection against hydrogen peroxide in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1998;253(3):893-8.
  6. Goodsell D. Catalase. RCSB Protein Data Bank. 2004. Available at: Accessed October 17, 2013.
  7. Gaetani GF, Ferraris AM, Rolfo M, Mangerini R, Arena S, Kirkman HN. Predominant role of catalase in the disposal of hydrogen peroxide within human erythrocytes. Blood. 1996;87(4):1595-9.
  8. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Dietary Supplements. August 28, 2013. Available at Accessed October 29, 2013

The Abuse of OTC Medications in Young Adults: What Can You Do?

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

 By: Ashley Peterson, Cedarville University PharmD Student 

Over-the-counter medications are the most common abused substances after marijuana, alcohol, and prescription drugs.1 According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, medications are abused in several ways: taking a medication that has been prescribed to someone else, taking a drug at a higher quantity, or for an alternative purpose. This article from a newspaper in Philadelphia highlights the top 10 over-the-counter medicines abused by teens. Teens between the ages of 13 and 16 especially are able to easily access over-the-counter (OTC) medicines at home or in the store.2 The list includes: dextromethorphan, pain relievers, caffeine and energy drinks, diet pills, laxatives and herbal diuretics, motion sickness pills, sexual performance medicines, pseudoephedrine, herbal ecstasy, and other herbal products. The article states that adults and teens do not realize the dangers and effects of abusing OTC medications because they think that they are safer than illegal or prescription drugs which is not the case. Abuse of OTC drugs has high risks and dangers that can be overlooked oftentimes compared to the fear and risks associated with “illegal street drugs.”2 I agree with this, there is less control over OTC products so people have more access to them. It is unfortunate that people find ways to abuse medications that are supposed to help them feel better.


For example, dextromethorphan, the main ingredient in Robitussin and other cough medicines, when taken in large doses (5-10 times the normal dose) causes major side effects in acute and chronic use. A case series study (Ziahee, V et. al.) 3 noted that acute abuse of dextromethorphan caused dyskinesia (impaired movement), euphoria and trance, nausea, vomiting, sweating, speech disorder, and photophobia. Chronic abuse resulted in constipation, apathy (lack of enthusiasm), and fatigue as well. Dextromethorphan may not be an addictive substance by itself but is often used by drug users to add to his or her “high” and to decrease dependency on the addictive substance.

Over-the-counter laxatives are also widely available and are abused by people with eating disorders, those who are dependent on laxatives and certain athletes that have a set weight point.4 Normal bowel function is disrupted and electrolyte imbalance and dehydration occurs when people abuse laxatives even just once. Individuals believe that taking a laxative means that he or she can avoid calorie absorption by inducing diarrhea, however this is not the case since most calories absorbed from food occurs in the stomach and small intestine and not in the large intestine where laxatives act. Sometimes people can experience a rebound effect of acute weight gain and fluid retention when laxatives are suddenly discontinued.4 This means that careful education and treatment is important for someone abusing these laxatives.

One of the other popular OTC drugs to abuse is Benadryl (diphenhydramine), which is classified, as a first-generation, sedating antihistamine.6 Diphenhydramine is lipophilic so it crosses the Blood-Brain barrier readily. It is selective for histamine1 receptors, and activates serotonin and alpha-adrenergic receptors but block cholinergic receptors. Overdoses of these antihistamines cause cardiac symptoms (tachycardia, vasodilation), central nervous system symptoms (hallucinations, toxic psychosis, lethargy), as well as peripheral symptoms (sudden increase in temperature, pupil dilation).6 Overdoses of diphenhydramine sometimes result in hospitalization for treatment.

Although these medications and the rest of the list from the article are available over-the-counter, they can still be harmful if abused. Parents of teenagers and children should be aware of several important factors to help their kids stay away from drug abuse. These include: high levels of involvement in activities, discussing the dangers surrounding any medication or substance that can be harmful if not taking for a correct purpose, being a supportive and encouraging parent to your child and being aware and helping them find good friends.8 Oftentimes school and peer pressure cause young adults to get involved with substance abuse, as a parent, it is important to be aware of this and be proactive in helping your teenager learn to make wise decisions that do not result in serious consequences. Parents, teachers, pharmacists, and doctors should be watchful for signs of abuse (secrecy, abnormal eating or bowel habits, impaired function and activity, sedation, etc). A positive and encouraging role a person has in a young adult’s life is an important step in combatting OTC medication drug abuse at a personal level.9 Take action steps to be involved in lives of young adults in a positive way by asking questions, learning about them, and encouraging them to succeed and make wise decisions.




1. DrugFacts: Prescription and over-the-counter medications. National Institute of Health: National Institute on Drug Abuse Web site. Updated 2013. Accessed October 10, 2013.


2. Cohen M. 10 over-the-counter medicines abused by teens. Web site. Updated 2013. Accessed October 1, 2013.


3. Ziaee V, Akbari Hamed E, Hoshmand A, Amini H, Kebriaeizadeh A, Saman K. Side effects of dextromethorphan abuse, a case series. Addict Behav. 2005;30(8):1607-1613.


4. Laxative Abuse. Drugs [serial online]. August 2010;70(12):1487-1503. Available from: SPORTDiscus with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed October 26, 2013.


5. Scolaro K. Disorders related to colds and allergy. In: Krinsky D, Berardi R, eds. Handbook of nonprescription drugs. 17th ed. Washington DC: American Pharmacists Association; 2012:179.


7. Lessenger J, Feinberg S. Abuse of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Journal Of The American Board Of Family Medicine [serial online]. 2008 Jan-Feb 2008;21(1):45-54. Available from: CINAHL Plus with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed October 26, 2013.


8. Lessenger J, Feinberg S. Abuse of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Journal Of The American Board Of Family Medicine [serial online]. 2008 Jan-Feb 2008;21(1):45-54. Available from: CINAHL Plus with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed October 26, 2013.


9. Mayberry M, Espelage D, Koenig B. Multilevel Modeling of Direct Effects and Interactions of Peers, Parents, School, and Community Influences on Adolescent Substance Use. Journal Of Youth & Adolescence [serial online]. September 2009;38(8):1038-1049. Available from: SocINDEX with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed October 26, 2013.