What Parents Should Know About Teen Medicine Abuse

Every day, it can seem like teens are indulging in a new drug or risky behavior. As parents, we try our best to protect our teens from bad influences and dangerous activities… but did you know that a seemingly innocent substance in your home could have harmful consequences?


What is Teen Medicine Abuse?

Dextromethorphan (DXM) is an active ingredient in most over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines. When used correctly as a cough suppressant, DXM is safe and effective. However, when an amount higher than the recommended dose is consumed, DXM can be dangerous.

One in three teenagers knows someone who has abused DXM to get high, sometimes taking more than 25 times the recommended dose. Since OTC cough medicine is affordable and easily available, some teens may falsely believe it is “less dangerous” to abuse than illegal drugs. However, overusing an OTC product with DXM can have dire consequences like those that result from abusing prescription medications, alcohol or illegal drugs. The side effects of teen medicine abuse can range from nausea and dizziness to mild distortions of color and sound, hallucinations, loss of motor control and liver injury.


Preventing Teen Medicine Abuse

So, what can parents do to help prevent teen medicine abuse? Take a look at the four steps listed below.


1. Educate yourself

Learn the warning signs and risks of DXM abuse, as well as which products contain the active ingredient. Look for the Stop Medicine Abuse icon on bottles, which marks the more than 100 over-the-counter products containing DXM.


2. Monitor

Armed with the knowledge of which medicines contain DXM, monitor your medicine cabinet for unusual consumption of cough medicine. Sixty-four percent of parents report that their medicine cabinets can be accessed by anyone, so maintaining awareness of your current medications is critical. Additionally, monitor your teen’s online activity, keep an ear out for slang terms you haven’t heard before and make note of changes in friends and loss of interests.


3. Communicate

Talk to your teen about the risks of medicine abuse and start the conversation. Even if your teen acts like  he or she is not listening, teens who learn about drug abuse from their parents are 50 percent less likely to use drugs. If you need more help bringing up the topic, we have a list of conversation starters to help.


4. Share

Now that you know more about DXM abuse, share this information with other parents, teachers and community members to further reduce the risk of abuse. Speak up at school meetings, sports events and other parent gatherings. Make sure to stress the importance of education, open communication with teens and the safeguarding of medicines – as these are all important steps in teen medicine abuse prevention.

You can get more information at StopMedicineAbuse.com or join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.