Intentional use of prescription drugs to get high has become commonplace behavior by teenagers according to the latest study (released May, 2006) conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Even when parents talk to their teens about drugs, the risks of drug use are not sinking in.
How Many?Alarming Numbers
Teen abuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter (OTCs) medicines are “greater than the combined abuse of Ecstasy, methamphetamine, crack/cocaine and heroin” the study found. It’s so longer the rave drugs or street drugs that are the problem, teen drug abusers have found their way to your medicine cabinet.
So how many teens are abusing prescription drugs and OTCs? According to the study, which gathered data nationally in 2005, more than four million have intentionally abused prescription pain medications. That’s one in five.
In addition, one in 10, or more than two million teens have abused prescription stimulants.
What? Cough Medicines and DXM
Wondering why you have to keep buying cough medicine? One in ten teens have also abused OTC cough medicines that contain the DXM, is a cough-suppressing ingredient in a variety of OCT cold and cough medications, making it an easy target for teen drug abuse. Any cold medicine, and there about 70, which contains “Tuss” or “DM: in the name contains Dextromethorphan, a semisynthetic narcotic.
The recommended dose of cough medicine is perfectly safe and effective. The teens abusing the drug DXM can be drinking up to three or four entire bottles of cough medicine.
One in 10 (more than two million) teens has abused prescription stimulants; One in 10 has abused OTC cough medicines with the ingredient dextromethorphan (DXM).
One in three teens has been offered an Rx or OTC medicine for the purpose of drug abuse and one in four has a friend who abuses Rx and OTC medicines. According to the Partnership for a Drug-free America, this suggests that “Rx and OTC medicine abuse has penetrated teen culture and become “normalized.”
Why? False Sense of Security and Accessibility
Teen drug abuse of Rx and OTC medicines is perceived is driven by their misperception that it is somehow safe, or safer to abuse these drugs and get high. According to the study, more than half of teens (55 percent or 13 million) “don’t agree strongly that using cough medicines to get high is risky.” They also believe that the Rx medicines are “much safe” to use than illegal drugs, that is two in five teens. Even more teens do not think Rx pain relievers are addictive (three out of ten).
Even more alarming, almost one third of teens believe there is “nothing wrong” with using Rx medicines without a prescription “once in a while.” One third believe it is okay to abuse these prescription drugs, even when they are prescribed to someone else. Teen drug abusers of Rx drugs and OTC medicines know that the Rx pain relievers are easy to snag from their family’s medicine cabinets.
Educate, Communicate and Safeguard
The good news is that your kids will listen to you, when you focus on the risks of drug abuse, including Rx and OTC medicine drug abuse. The study did find that when parents teach kids a lot about the risks of drug use that up to 50 percent are less likely to use drugs. It is important to talk about all drugs, including prescription drugs, inhalants, and meth. The study found that parents need to do a more informative job in discussing the risks of drug abuse, and not just talk about the dangers of marijuana use.
Parents must drill into their kids that Rx medications and OTC medicines are not safe to abuse even “once in a while.” Safeguard the medications you have and keep track of the quantities if necessary.