Over-the-counter medication abuse is one of the fastest-growing categories of drugs abused by teenagers in the United States today. There are a variety of explanations as to why this abuse is so common and continues to grow, but of course, no one can be certain of the predominant cause.
For starters, these drugs are about as readily available as they come. As their name indicates, they can be purchased over the counter (OTC), which means without a prescription. In addition, in comparison to street drugs, this class of medication is relatively inexpensive, as you can purchase a large bottle of cough syrup, for example, from anywhere between eight to twelve dollars.
And perhaps the most troubling of all, OTC medication abuse is often perceived by kids and teenagers to be less dangerous and harmful to their health than other illicit substances because these drugs can be purchased legally in a pharmacy or grocery store. It’s difficult for them to comprehend the fact that while consuming the recommended dose of an OTC medication can be perfectly safe, abusing that same substance by taking too much can be incredibly toxic to their system.
Most Common Types of OTC Medication Abuse
- Cough Medicine – Cough medicine is definitely the most well-known type of OTC medication abuse thanks to an active ingredient called dextromethorphan, or DXM. When consumed in small amounts like the recommended dosage on a bottle of cough syrup, it’s of no threat to your body. However, when consumed in large quantities, it can simulate the effects of a hallucinogenic and produce additional side effects like confusion, dizziness, distorted vision, slurred speech, trouble with coordination, drowsiness, rapid heartbeat, nausea, vomiting and loss of motor control.
- Diet Pills – Teens and young adults can often feel such pressure to be thin and look like the models they see in magazines, that diet pill medication abuse is incredibly common. Young women are especially susceptible to falling victim to diet pill abuse. Diet pills can be very dangerous to young, growing bodies, even the natural or herbal ones. The side effects of diet pill abuse include nervousness and tremors, increased heartbeat, high blood pressure, digestive problems, kidney problems, dehydration and even heart failure.
- Motion Sickness Pills – Motion sickness pills, similar to cough suppressant DXM have been known to cause hallucinations when users consume far more than the recommended dosage. While these sorts of drugs can be an introduction to substance abuse for some, they can also be a strong indicator of an existing drug problem, as addicts will often abuse OTC medication to tide them over when they can’t get their hands on their preferred drug of choice.
The best offense on combating OTC medication abuse in your household is often a good defense. Talk to your kids openly and honestly about the real harm and dangers associated with OTC drugs. Shatter the myths that they have in their brain that these drugs are safe for them to abuse. Understand which types are the most likely to be abused and keep a limited supply of them in your home. Be the keeper of the medicine cabinet and track the amount that you have in your home so you can easily detect if a noticeable amount has gone missing.
Destination Hope is an acclaimed drug, alcohol and dual diagnosis treatment center in South Florida. Our clinicians have great knowledge and experience treating substance abuse problems that include and very often start with OTC medication abuse. If there’s a teen in your life who’s begun abusing OTC drugs or any drugs for that matter, please put them in contact with the experts at Destination Hope today so we can help. Call us anytime, day or night.