Thursday, August 9, 2012
10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Over-the-Counter Medicine Abuse
Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines like painkillers and cold medicines are generally safe when used as intended. But if your teen takes them in large doses to get high, they can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Many young people abuse cough medicines containing dextromethorphan, among other drugs. Get the facts on this disturbing trend.
1. The statistics are frightening:
Government surveys show that 3.1 million people age 12 and older have misused OTC medications in their lifetime—with nearly 4 percent of misuse among those younger than 18. Nearly 6 percent of 10th graders and roughly 5 percent of high school seniors report abusing cough or cold medicines, particularly those containing dextromethorphan.
2. Dextromethorphan goes by many names:
Pharmacists may call this medication DXM. On the street, it's also known as dex, poor man's PCP, CCC, rojo, skittles, triple C, velvet, or robo. Abusing it is often called robotripping, skittling, or dexing. You can find DXM in more than 125 over-the-counter products, including Robitussin, Vicks, and Coricidin HBP.
3. The dose makes the difference:
Fifteen or 30 milligrams of DXM three to four times daily quells adults' coughs with few side effects. Teens who abuse it sometimes take 250 to 1,500 milligrams at a time. Too much DXM and mixing it with other drugs can cause medical emergencies, such as overdose or even death.
4. Abuse leads to highs—and lows:
Depending on the dose, the effects of DXM include feeling either overexcited or lethargic. Low doses may be mildly stimulating. The more teens take, the more likely they are to experience hallucinations, euphoria, and a feeling of being outside of their own bodies.
5. The health dangers are real:
Over-the-counter products with DXM often contain other ingredients, including acetaminophen and the drug guaifenesin, which relieves congestion. These drugs have their own dangers at high doses, including liver damage and rapid heartbeat. Mixing DXM with other drugs intensifies the risks—for example, DXM can be fatal when taken with antidepressants.
7. Many teens have easy access:
Liquids, capsules, and tablets containing DXM are readily available at drugstores, supermarkets, or convenience stores—as well as in parents' medicine cabinets. Some teens order high-dose DXM powders online or visit websites that have "recipes" for more potent drug combinations.
8. DXM isn't the only drugstore danger:
Young people also misuse laxatives, emetics, and diet pills. They may begin by trying to lose weight but gradually become dependent on ingredients such as ephedrine, caffeine, and phenylpropanolamine. Like speed, these substances stimulate the central nervous system and can be fatal.
9. Abusers often leave telltale signs:
Talk with your teen regularly about the dangers of abusing OTC drugs, and watch for red flags. Be concerned if he or she takes large amounts of cold medicine. Keep an eye out for missing medicine from your own cabinet, as well as drug packaging in your child's backpack or bedroom.
10. With help, teens can stop misusing drugs:
A support team can help your family face—and overcome—OTC drug abuse. If you suspect your child has a problem, talk with a school nurse, doctor, or other health professional. Other sources of information and support include school counselors, faith leaders, other parents, and community anti-drug organizations.