By Anita Brikman
As National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month (NMAAM) approaches, I want to take some time to help inform other parents about over-the-counter (OTC) medicine abuse and the corresponding risks. It can be easy to overlook the potential dangers of misusing medicines that are legal and readily-available, but it’s important to recognize that these medicines can be harmful when abused… as some kids are doing.
Specifically, I want to highlight the abuse of OTC cough medicines containing the active ingredient dextromethorphan (DXM). While these medicines are safe and effective when used as directed, one in 30 teens have abused DXM to get high. Furthermore, one in 3 teens knows of someone who has abused DXM, which means there’s a pretty good chance that your teen knows another teen who has abused the substance. What’s even more alarming? Some teens abuse OTC cough medicine by taking up to 25x the recommended dose, which can lead to dangerous side effects such as disorientation, double or blurred vision and impaired physical coordination. It’s certainly uncomfortable to think about, but I’m comforted knowing that the Stop Medicine Abuse campaign is actively working to alert parents and community members of this issue.
As a parent, I know that we all want to keep our families safe. Here are four things you can do during NMAAM to prevent medicine abuse in your home and community:
- Educate yourself. Learn about the warning signs and side effects of abuse to ensure it doesn’t go unnoticed in your home. Keep an ear out for slang terms and an eye out for changes in your teen’s behavior, physical appearance or group of friends.
- Take inventory of the medicines in your home. If you regularly keep tabs on what you have, you’ll be able to more easily notice when something goes missing without explanation.
To identify medicines that contain DXM, check the active ingredients list on the Drug Facts label and look for the above icon on the packaging.
- Talk with your teen. It’s not an easy conversation to have, but teens who learn about the risks of substance abuse from their parents are 50% less likely to misuse. Once you have the talk, be sure to keep the door open for an ongoing dialogue.
- Inform others. Talk with parents, teachers and other members of your community. Share what you’ve learned to make sure they are aware of the dangers of substance abuse and what they can do to prevent it.
Anita Brikman joined the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) in 2016 and leads the association’s communications and public affairs functions. As a member of the senior management team, she is responsible for establishing and directing the organization’s communications strategies and goals. Anita is passionate about healthcare issues, with over two decades of experience as a news anchor and health reporter in major television markets – making medicine abuse awareness and prevention efforts important to her. She is also the mother of three teenagers.