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OTC Drug Abuse
One of the growing trends in teen drug use today is the abuse of over the counter (OTC) drugs. There are a lot reasons that teenagers choose to abuse OTC drugs. They are easier to access than illegal drugs for one thing. Also, these OTC drugs are often viewed as "safer" than illegal drugs. For most teens, using over the counter drugs to get a buzz or to help them stay awake while studying is not a problem in their mind, but every time an over the counter drug or any medication is used for something other than what it has been developed for, or taking an amount higher than the recommended dose, abuse of the drug has taken place. The abuse of OTC drugs is increasingly becoming an accepted part of teenage culture. Unfortunately, many of these teens do not realize that they are in danger when they abuse OTC drugs. Most teens are aware that they have to look no further than the medicine cabinet at their own home to get high, and this easy access makes the likelihood of OTC drug abuse much greater. Most teens that abuse OTC drugs are not thinking that they are doing something dangerous. The perception of over the counter drugs is that not needing a prescription, somehow makes them safe. To teenagers, it seems unlikely that an OTC drug could be dangerous to them because they are so readily available. They are sold in stores openly, and their parents have at one time or another given OTC drugs to them when they have colds or other minor everyday ailments. OTC drugs are considered safe when used in proper context, and abuse does not take place by the individual consuming the over the counter medications. Most drug education programs focus primarily on illegal drugs, not OTC drugs and their potential for abuse. There is a great need for teenagers to understand that OTC drugs, when abused, can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs.
Over-the-counter drugs are being abused at higher rates than ever, especially cough and cold OTC medications. They are becoming very popular as recreational drugs for young teenagers between the ages of 13 to 16. Hospitals have reported dozens of overdoses in the past two years, including five deaths where the abuse of OTC medicines was a factor. Cold medicines such as Robitussin, Nyquil, Vicks Formula 44, and Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold tablets contain a chemical called dextromethorphan (DXM), which is found in more than half of all prescription cough and cold medications. The latest statistics for the abuse of the OTC drug DXM are staggering.
Teenagers have various nicknames for DXM including: Robo, Skittles, Triple C's, Dex, Vitamin D, and Tussin. Over the counter Coricidin HBP Cough and Cold tablets contain much more potent doses of DXM than cough syrups, so the kids don't need to drink a whole bottle of nasty tasting cough syrup, making it easier for them to take higher doses, therefore increasing the likelihood of OTC drug abuse. They can easily and conveniently take a few OTC pills containing DXM to get high. Purchasing DXM as an over the counter drug costs just a few dollars as compared to other much more expensive illicit drugs, which make it cheaper for individuals to abuse this easily accessible OTC drug. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of information on the Internet regarding how much DXM it takes kids to get high, and teens can easily log on to get the information they need, to abuse this readily available OTC drug.
Over the counter cold medicines concerning DXM is not the only over-the-counter drug that teenagers are abusing. The list also includes OTC diet pills, sleep aids, and motion sickness medication. Dramamine is the most popular OTC drug for motion sickness and when abused can cause hallucinations. Some teenagers abuse OTC diet pills in an attempt to lose weight rapidly, others take them to get high. Even herbal diet pills can be dangerous as they are not well regulated by the by the FDA, and the potential for OTC abuse also exists with these supplements.
Over the counter drugs can be extremely dangerous resulting in overdose, and even death. Parents should be aware of the dangers and to any possible abuse of these potentially dangerous over-the-counter medications, and seek treatment for the individual abusing these potent, sometimes deadly OTC drugs.