If you think your teen has to meet shady contacts in back alleys in order to be abusing drugs, you’re wrong. Often, teens abuse drugs that are actually legal. They may not even think they are doing anything wrong or dangerous.
While some may use over-the-counter or prescription medications as gateway drugs to illegal drug addiction, others will receive enough of a high from what’s readily available that they never venture into unknown territory. Either way, drug abuse is just that, and you need to make sure your teens are informed about the risks.
Legal drugs are ones that have entered your home legally. Alcohol, over-the-counter medications, and prescription drugs all fall under this category. And they’re a huge problem. According to the Monitoring the Future survey (PDF), as of 2012, over 20% of high school seniors have experimented with prescription drug abuse. Almost 70% have abused alcohol.
Many teens (and even adults) falsely assume that if a medication is legally sold without the need for a prescription, they must be completely safe. While the FDA does set guidelines prohibiting the uncontrolled sale of medications with certain ingredients, their approval of all that’s available only relates to using over-the-counter medications according to their intentions and the directions that accompany them.
FDA approval in no way suggests that the medicine can’t be used to get high or artificially enhance performance — or that an overdose cannot be lethal. In fact, since teens who abuse over-the-counter drugs typically take them in much higher doses than recommended, toxicity is a definite concern.
Short of a life-threatening overdose, teens’ physical health can suffer. Due to the euphoric effects of the medication, they can also be more prone to engage in a variety of risky behaviors.
According to this Philadelphia newspaper, some over-the-counter meds teens abuse most frequently include cold remedies, motion sickness pills, natural herbs, and caffeine.
Dimetapp D, Nyquil, and Robitussin D are some of the most popular cough suppressants which include dextromethorphan, or DXM. While many assume teens must be after the alcohol, it’s actually the high produced by DXM that causes hallucinations or “highs” — along with seizures, increased heart rate, and disrupted breathing. (Dextromethorphan is also available in bulk online.) Slang terms for this drug include DM, vitamin D, robo, and tussin. Sometimes those who abuse cough medicine are referred to as “syrup heads.”
Motion Sickness Pills
Pills intended to help eliminate the effects of motion sickness can be taken in large doses to approximate the effects of powerful street drugs. However, they can cause teens to experience heart attacks, go into comas, or even die. Best known as Dramamine, medications that include dimenhydrinate can cause hallucinations at high dosages. Over time, chronic use of this drug can lead to kidney failure.
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