Right now my kids are innocent and young and the thought of them taking these medications unnecessarily and voluntarily - for a purpose other than needing it, seems incredibly far fetched. I mean, they won't even open their mouth for it now! But I know that there will come a time, someday, years from now, when they will learn that some people take these medications not to get better, but to get high.
And that prospect scares the bajeezes out of me.
I still remember when I first heard of this phenomenon, back when I was a teen myself. I was in college, and some guys at a party were handing around some cough medicine. What on earth? I remember thinking. Are they sick? I was ignorant, obviously, but I eventually learned what they were doing. I never tried it myself, but I did get immune to the shock of seeing others do it. In the next few years, I would see it again.
October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month. As part of this, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association is highlighting its Stop Medicine Abuse campaign, with the goal of alerting parents and community members of the dangers of teens abusing over the counter medicines.
This trend has only increased since the days of my youth. Currently, approximately 1 in 20 teens reports abusing excessive amounts of Dextromethorphan ("DXM"), an active ingredient in many cold and cough medicines, and one in 3 knows someone who has abused cough medicine to get high. When abused, DXM can cause side effects including mild distortions of color and sound, hallucinations, and loss of motor control. These side effects come at a price - high doses of these medicines can cause fatal liver injury, cardiovascular effects, and over-sedation.
Not something I want my kids to be doing. Or seeing. Or even knowing about.
But they will know about it, eventually. And even though I thank my lucky stars that right now they are young and naive and ignorant, they won't stay like that forever. There will come a time that as a parent, it will be my responsibility to educate them, and it's important that I do. The data shows that what parents say does matter. In fact, teens who learn about the risk of drugs from their parents are 50% less likely to use drugs.
There are other things parents can do, of course, and the Stop Medicine Abuse campaign has some excellent tips, including:
- Listen to the language your kids are using. DXM is often referred to as skittling, tussin, robo-tripping, CCC, triple C's, and dexing.
- Monitor your medicine cabinets.
- Keep on the lookout for warning signs, including empty cough medicine bottles in your child's room, backpack, or school locker; loss of interest in hobbies or favorite activities; changes in friends, physical appearance, sleeping, or eating patterns; and declining grades.
(For more info, please check out the Stop Medicine Abuse website at http://stopmedicineabuse.org/ - there is a plethora of helpful information there).
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First, you can follow @StopMedAbuse on Twitter and use #NotMyTeen for any related tweets.
Second, there will be a Twitter Party on Tuesday night (10/1) from 9-10pm EST, hosted by Stop Medicine Abuse and Mom It Forward (click here for more information). The subject will be about raising kids with character and raising awareness for stopping medicine abuse in teens. If you'd like to join us, use the hashtag #gno #NotMyTeen.
I'll be there, talking about this important issue with my fellow adults! Some day, I'll talk about it with my kids. Just not quite yet.... But at least when I do, I'll be prepared.
Disclosure: I received compensation for this post as part of the CHPA OTC Safety Ambassador Program. All the opinions reflected here are my own.