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Teenagers seem to come up with new phrases on a daily basis, and it can be hard to keep up with the meanings of their jargon. However, it’s important to know certain terms that are slang for dangerous activities, such as medicine abuse.

1 in 30 teens has abused over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine containing the active ingredient dextromethorphan (also known as “DXM”) to get high. While DXM is a safe and effective ingredient when used as directed, some teens abuse it by taking up to 25 times the recommended dosage. This can cause dangerous side effects such as blurred vision and a rapid heartbeat, among others.

To hide this risky behavior from parents, teachers, and other adults, teens have come up with a myriad of slang terms to speak in code. Phrases such as “skittling,” “robo-tripping,” and “tussing” are among the list of slang terms you should keep your ears perked up for.

Being able to detect medicine abuse by recognizing slang terms and other warning signs is important, but even more important is what you can do to prevent medicine abuse before it happens:

  1. Talk to your teen. Studies have found that teens who have the “drug talk” with parents/guardians are 50% less likely to abuse.
  2. Monitor your medicine cabinet and your teen’s activities. Warning signs such as empty cough medicine bottles/packaging in the trash when no one is sick or drastic changes in a teen’s behavior could be indicators that you should look closer.
  3. Share this information with other parents, teachers, and members of your community. The more people who are able to detect and prevent medicine abuse in teens, the better. Find resources for taking action and spreading the word here.
  4. Look for the icon below and check the Drug Facts label on cough medicine packaging to identify which medicines contain dextromethorphan.

There are over 100 OTC cough medicine brands that contain DXM.

Look for this icon to easily identify which ones include the active ingredient.

Stop Medicine Abuse is a prevention campaign working to alert parents and members of the community about the problem of teen abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines containing dextromethorphan (DXM). You can learn more on by visiting the Stop Medicine Abuse website or connecting with the campaign on Facebook page and Twitter.

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P.U.R.E. does not provide legal advice and does not have an attorney on staff.
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