National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month: The Warning Signs of Abuse

nationional med abuseOctober is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month. To kick off the month, I am excited to share this article from StopMedicineAbuse. When parents see content online, it is often hard to tell when they need to step in. Here are few tips from the Five Mom Blog on what to watch out for online and offline.

The Dangers and Warning Signs of Over-the-Counter Cough Medicine Abuse
By LeeAnn Weniger-Mandrillo, Five Mom Blog

stop med talkWhen considering the different pressures and dangers that teenagers face day-to-day, over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine abuse may not be top of mind. However, OTC cough medicine abuse could be more present in teens’ lives than most parents think. Approximately one in three teens knows someone who has abused OTC cough medicine. Even more, one in 30 teens has reported abusing OTC cough medicine themselves – about the equivalent of one student in every public high school classroom.

The most effective way to prevent OTC cough medicine abuse among teens is through education. And parents can play a key role in stopping abuse before it even starts. Only 59% of teens strongly believe that using OTC medicines to get high is risky. However, adolescents who learn about the risks of drug use from their parents are less likely to abuse drugs than those who do not.

Unfortunately, abuse still occurs. While safe when taken in proper dosage, teens who abuse dextromethorphan – the active ingredient in most cough medicines – they sometimes take more than 25 times the recommended dose. In order to get high, teens will go through multiple packages or bottles of medicine. This type of abuse can result in hazardous side effects like nausea, vomiting, confusion, impaired physical coordination, hallucinations and more. When misused with other substances, additional side effects can occur.

As parents, we must arm ourselves with the knowledge to recognize when there may be warning signs of OTC cough medicine abuse. There’s no time like the present, especially since this month is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month. Here are some behaviors and signs to look out for in your teen:

  • A change in personality – While teenagers are known to experience a range of emotions, keep an eye out if your teen has an unexplained hostile attitude, a loss of interest in favorite hobbies, a change in physical appearance or odd sleeping or eating patterns. Additionally, if you hear your teen using slang terms like “skittling” or “robo-tripping,” they may be talking about DXM abuse.
  • Unusual Internet activity – Have you noticed your teen visiting unfamiliar websites or watching strange videos on social media? The Internet allows teens to access pro-drug websites that provide information on how to abuse OTC medicines and even order medicine online. Take note of any unexplained credit card charges or mysterious online orders.
  • Changes in your home – Some teens choose to abuse OTC medicine because it is easily accessible in their home. Be mindful of missing medicine from your medicine cabinets.  Also, take note of potential warning signs in your teen’s room like unfamiliar medicinal smells or empty medicine containers in the trash when your teen isn’t sick.

Parents have the ability to make sure teens are getting the right information about the harmful effects of OTC medicine abuse and can minimize these risky behaviors with education and prevention techniques. For more information about what over-the-counter medicine abuse looks like and how you can prevent abuse, please visit

stop med logoLeeAnn is a community advocate and social marketer. As a caregiver to her nephew during his teenage years, she became acquainted with the many issues teens face, like over-the-counter (OTC) medicine abuse. LeeAnn is passionate about risky behavior prevention and education and actively contributes as one of The Five Moms for the Stop Medicine Abuse campaign. Join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.