As a parent you most likely have had discussions with your kids about the dangers of illegal drugs and alcohol. But have you thought about talking to your kids about the dangers of over the counter drug abuse? Because a prescription is not needed and anyone can walk into a pharmacy or grocery store and buy them, OTC drugs often get little consideration when it comes to having “the talk” with your kids. Yet OTC drugs are the MOST commonly abused drugs among teens between 13 and 16. Older teens and young adults tend to combine OTCs with other drugs or alcohol for a higher high. Below are the 10 most commonly abused OTC drugs.
Cough medicine– One out of every 10 teens has reported using cough syrup to get high. The dextromethorphan in most cough syrups can cause sensations from euphoria to hallucinations if taken in large enough quantities. Easily obtained, often readily available at home, it seems harmless. But large quantities can cause dangerous side effects, including loss of consciousness, seizures, brain damage, and death.
Pain Relievers—Adults and teens alike take will take acetaminophen and ibuprofen in doses higher then recommended because they want the medicine to work faster. This stuff kills your liver.
Caffeine and energy drinks—Caffeine pills like NoDoz and drinks like 5 Hour Energy are used for that caffeine buzz. Because energy drinks are sold as “nutritional supplements” they don’t have to abide by the FDAs caffeine limits like soda does. The drinks can contain anywhere from 75 to 400 mg of caffeine. And this doesn’t include the caffeine counts from other included ingredients like guarana, kola nut, and yerba mate. A recent study showed that 46% of caffeine overdoses were in kids under 19.
Diet Pills—These OTC drugs can be highly addictive and dangerous. The FDA has banned the pills containing the most dangerous ingredients: phenylpropanolamine, ephedrine, and ephedra. However the replacement ingredients can have serious side effects.
Laxatives and Diuretics—These are most often abused in an effort to lose weight. When abused they can cause serious dehydration and even deadly loss of minerals.
Motion Sickness Pills—Pills like Dramamine contain dimenhydrinate or diphenhydromine (Benadryl) which can give the high and hallucinations of street drugs when abused. Some take as many as 40 pills at a time.
What Can You Do to Prevent OTC Abuse?
Take a quick inventory of all over the counter drugs kept in your home. Be aware of the products in your medicine cabinet, and ask questions if you notice that any products are used frequently or disappear. But be aware if your child is using cough and cold medications outside of cold and flu season or if he or she continues to self-medicate after symptoms have subsided. Monitor your child’s internet use. Many of these products are sold in bulk online, so know what sites your child is visiting and be vigilant. Talk to your kids about the dangers of over the counter drug abuse. Just because they are available without a prescription doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous and even deadly when misused. Your child’s over-the-counter drug abuse should be taken just as seriously as a dependence upon alcohol or any other psychoactive substance.