News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Teens are taking prescription drugs, OTC cough medicine to get high

According to surveys from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 20 percent of teens say they have taken a prescription drug without having a prescription for it themselves, and three percent report abusing over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine to get high. 

Teens report getting many of these medicines from home medicine cabinets and mistakenly believe that abusing them is “safer” than other drugs.  

What types of medicines do teens abuse?

Rx Drugs: While prescription medicines benefit many when used appropriately, they are being increasingly misused and abused. The most commonly abused prescription medications are listed below, and all can be dangerous or deadly when abused:

• Opioids and pain relievers: examples include hydrocodone, oxycodone

• Barbiturates and benzodiazepines: examples include diazepam, alprazolam

• Stimulants: examples include dextroamphetamine, methylphenidate

OTC Cough/Cold Medicine: While millions of Americans safely rely on OTC cough medicine to temporarily relieve their cough, some teens intentionally take large amounts – sometimes more than 25 times the recommended dose of these medicines – to get high. This means some teens ingest multiple packages or bottles of OTC cough medicines that contain dextromethorphan (DXM).

DXM is the active ingredient in most OTC cough medicines. Approved by the FDA in the 1950s, DXM is the most widely used cough suppressant ingredient in the United States.

When taken in excessive amounts, DXM can cause serious side effects including rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, memory problems, nausea and vomiting.

More than 100 OTC medicines containing DXM are on the market today. These medicines come in the form of liquids, capsules, gelcaps, lozenges, and tablets. 

Help prevent medicine abuse:

Talk to your teen about prescription and OTC cough medicine abuse. Teens listen, even if they act like they don’t. Teens who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are 50 percent less likely to use drugs.

Safeguard your medicine cabinets. Know what you have and how much, so you will know if anything is missing. Discard any medicines you no longer need.

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