Preventing Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drug Abuse (page 2)
Children whose parents talk to them about the dangers of drug abuse are half as likely to abuse drugs. It is important to know how prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs could be abused. Prescription and OTC drugs that are abused or used for non-medical reasons can be very dangerous, even deadly.
Prescription Drug Abuse
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drug use remains high. Non-medical use of prescription medication peaked this year among high school seniors: 15.4% reported use of at least one medication within the past year.
Tips for Parents:
- Talk with your teen about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. These drugs are readily available. Teens who wouldn't otherwise take illicit (street) drugs might abuse prescription drugs because they believe these drugs are a safe way to get high.
- Properly conceal and dispose of old or unused medicines in the trash. Unused prescription drugs should be hidden and thrown away in the trash. You can mix them in a bag with used coffee grounds, kitty litter or another gross substance to prevent teens and others from taking them out of the trash. Unless the directions say otherwise, do NOT flush medications down the drain or toilet because the chemicals can pollute the water supply. Also, remove any personal, information from prescription bottles or pill packages before you throw them away.
- Ask friends and family to safeguard their prescription drugs as well. Make sure your friends, relatives, and especially grandparents, know about the risks and encourage them to regularly monitor their own medicine cabinets. If there are other households your teen has access to, talk to those families as well about the importance of safeguarding medications. If you don't know the parents of your child's friends, then make an effort to get to know them. Also get on the same page about rules and expectations for use of all drugs, including alcohol and illicit drugs. Follow up with your teen's school to find out what they are doing to address issues of prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse.
Over The Counter Drugs
You may not be aware that a number of over-the-counter (OTC) medications can be abused by teens to get high. Make it a habit to closely monitor the use of OTC medications within your household. Talk with your teen about the proper use of all medications and the health risks associated with abuse.
One product sometimes abused by teens is OTC cough and cold remedies. An alarming trend is for teens to take cough medicine 25-50 times the recommended dose to get high. The high from the active ingredient in cough medicine is dextromethorphan or DXM. The OTC cough and cold medications available in your local pharmacy, supermarket or convenience store are safe and effective when used as directed. But when taken in excessive doses, DXM can produce a high or cause mind-altering effects. Misuse of the drug can cause a number of effects, including impaired judgment and mental performance (not able to make good decisions), loss of coordination, dizziness, nausea, coma, and even death.
How can I tell if my teen is abusing dextromethorphan (DXM)?
You should be concerned if you notice that your teen is taking too many doses of a cold and flu medicine, or if your teen continues to take medicine even after symptoms have subsided. Your teen may also be abusing the product if cough and cold medications seem to disappear from the medicine cabinet or if you find packages of cough and cold preparations in your teen's room or backpack.
Tips for Parents
Talking with your teen and staying in touch with their lives are the first steps to keeping them free from abusing OTC medications.
- Speak with your teen often about the importance of carefully following directions on the labels of all OTC medications. Help them understand the dangers of abusing OTC cough and cold medications.
- Be mindful of the season. Your teen can benefit from relief of cough, cold, and flu symptoms by taking OTC cough and cold medicines according to the instructions on the manufacturer's label. But be aware if your child is using cough and cold medications outside of cold and flu season. Or if he continues taking the medicine after symptoms have subsided.
- Check your home. Take a quick look at all OTC medicines kept in your home. Be aware of the medicine in your medicine cabinet, and ask questions if you notice that any of them are used often or disappear.
- Monitor your teen's Internet use. Unfortunately, there are Internet sources that sell DXM in a bulk powder form or encourage teens to share their experiences with abusing DXM. These sites are not regulated so it becomes very important that you be aware of your teens Internet use. It is important to know: where your teen is getting information on the Internet, what sites he/she is spending time on, or with whom he/she may be talking to.
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