Drug Abuse in Teens Includes OTC

OTC cough syrup can cause health problems when teens abuse it to get high

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Think that over-the-counter means lack-of-danger? Not true, teens can poison themselves or have seizures from trying to get high off of non-prescription drugs.

A recent study surveyed 54,361 middle and high school students about their over-the-counter drug use. The study’s findings showed 10 percent of teens have gotten high off non-prescription drugs.

This means parents need to better control access all of the medications at home.

"Keep tabs on ALL drugs in the medicine cabinet."

Keith King, PhD, professor of health promotion, and Rebecca Vidourek, PhD, assistant professor of health promotion, at the University of Cincinnati, presented their research at the Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association.

For the study, 54,361 students from 7-12th grade in 133 schools across Cincinnati were surveyed from 2009-2010 about their over-the-counter (OTC) drug use.

The data collected was part of the PRIDE Survey and the Coalition for a Drug Free Greater Cincinnati.

A total of 10 percent of students said they had abused OTC drugs to get high. Males were more likely than females to abuse OTC drugs.

Cough syrup with decongestants like dextromethorphan (DMX) were reported as commonly abused by middle school students.

Poor outcomes from OTC abuse were poisoning, seizures, criminal behavior, poor grades, problems with interpersonal relationships, unsafe sexual practices and psychological and physical addictions.

Students who participated in sports, community or church organizations or school clubs showed less OTC drug use.

Students who had friends who abused OTC drugs, or frequented parties where OTC abuse had occurred were more likely to abuse OTC drugs themselves.

Dr. Vidourek said, “Findings from this study highlight and underscore OTC drugs as an increasing and significant health issue affecting young people.”

The authors said, “Health professionals and prevention specialists may benefit from the present study’s findings which can be used to tailor prevention programs to students.”

Parents can monitor how much of which OTC drugs in the medicine cabinet are being used.

This research was presented at the 140th Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association in San Francisco, CA. on October 29, 2012. All research is considered preliminary until it has been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

No funding information was provided and no conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 5, 2012
Last Updated:
November 11, 2012