Abuse of over the counter medications among teenagers is on the rise. These types of drugs are different from prescription drugs, such as painkillers and muscle relaxers, and, although prescription drugs are certainly abused by teenagers and are certainly a threat, they pose different problems than the abuse of over the counter medications. It is very important for parents of teenagers to recognize that abuse of over the counter medications can be just as dangerous as other types of drug abuse, and any suspicions should therefore not be left unexplored. Below you will find the three most important basic facts about over the counter medication abuse in teens:
1. It’s more common than many people think.
The abuse of over the counter medications among teens is more common than most people believe. Part of this popularity lies in the fact that teenagers in general have a natural urge to act on rebellious impulses, however dangerous they might be, and part of this popularity lies in the fact that over the counter medications are easy to obtain and cheap to abuse. Whatever the reasons, there’s no denying that over the counter medication abuse is on the rise. In recent years, admissions to drug centers for treatment related to over the counter medication abuse increased over thirty percent, and a study conducted by the Utah Poison Control indicated that nearly forty percent of recreational drug use among teens involved over the counter drugs. Cough medicine, one of the most commonly abused over the counter drugs, has been used by approximately one in ten teenagers to get high. Obviously, over the counter medication abuse is not limited to isolated segments of the teenage population, so parents should definitely not ignore the warning signs of over the counter drug abuse in their teen.
2. It’s difficult to stop.
Because over the counter medications are readily available, stopping their abuse in teenagers is no easy task. Many states have enacted laws requiring consumers to be over the age of eighteen before they are permitted to purchase certain types of medications, but, as with the underage laws for alcohol, this hasn’t stopped many teens from abusing. Moreover, because these are legitimate medications used to treat a myriad of illnesses, chances are, you probably have some of these substances in your own medicine cabinet.
Adding to the inherent difficulty involved with stopping over the counter drug abuse in teens is the wide range of drugs that can be abused. Commonly abused over the counter medications include antihistamines like Benadryl that contain dyphenhydramine, decongestants like Sudafed that contain pseudoephedrine, sleep aids like Unisom that contain doxylamine, motion sickness medicines like Dramamine that contain dimehydrinates, and weight loss supplements that contain ephedra or ma haung. Because this list, which is certainly not exhaustive, includes a large number of drugs capable of producing a remarkably wide range of effects, it can be very difficult to determine whether or not your teen is abusing an over the counter drug and even more difficult to pinpoint which one.
3. You need to talk with your teen.
Stopping over the counter drug abuse in teens is very hard, but certain things have proven effective. As obvious as it sounds, simply talking with your teen about the many dangers of over the counter drug abuse and your expectations for their actions is often effective at deterring them from abusing. Remind them that abusing over the counter medications is dangerous – sometimes even more dangerous than abusing other drugs. Because of the manner in which over the counter drugs are used to get high (which usually involves simply ingesting an extremely large quantity of the drug), overdose and death are both very real and frighteningly common possibilities.
If you’ve spoken with your teen about the dangers of over the counter drug abuse but still suspect that they could be abusing medications, there are a number of things you can do. Searching their trash and belongings for empty bottles, blister packs, and packages of over the counter medications used to treat ailments that you know your teen doesn’t have is certainly a first step, but there are important steps beyond that- not least of which is seeking professional help. Over the counter medication abuse is a serious problem, and it’s your responsibility as a parent to secure your teen’s safety by stopping this dangerous habit.