OVER THE COUNTER AND HUFFING
TEENS AND OVER THE COUNTER DRUGS
40% of teens feel that over the counter medicines are much safer than illegal drugs
55% of teens don’t think that it is risky to use cough medicine to get high
WHAT ARE OVER THE COUNTER DRUGS/MEDICINE?
Over the counter drugs are medicines that can be purchased in stores without a prescription. Many young people believe that these medications are safer to use (and abuse) because they don’t require a prescription and they are readily available in the family medicine cabinet. Nothing could be further than the truth. It is possible to get addicted to over the counter drugs.
WHAT IS OVER THE COUNTER DRUG ABUSE
Any use outside of what is recommended in the instructions or by your doctor is dangerous and considered abuse. Over the counter drug abuse is illegal.
MOST COMMONLY ABUSED OVER THE COUNTER DRUGS
Cough medicines (Dextromethorphan, or DXM)
Can cause hallucinations and euphoria if abused.
Side Effects: vomiting, rapid heart rate, blurred vision, shakiness, and even brain damage with high dose intake.
Cold medicines (Pseudoephedrine)
Can cause hallucinations and euphoria when abused. Is also used to produce the street drug methamphetamine.
Side Effects: irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, dizziness and seizures.
These are often over used for weight loss and to increase energy.
Side Effects: nervousness, tremors, increased heartbeats, high blood pressure, kidney and digestive problems, dehydration, and heart failure.
Motion sickness pills (Dimenhydrinate)
Often abused for their psychedelic properties.
Side Effects : hallucinations, ringing in the ears, nausea, irregular heartbeat, seizures, coma and even death.
Pain relievers (Acetaminophen)
High doses and long-term use of acetaminophen are often to treat chronic pain.
Side Effects: diarrhea, sweating, nausea, and stomach pain, and permanent liver damage.
Purple Drank, also known as lean and sizzurp, is a combination of Sprite, Jolly Ranchers, and prescription cold medicine containing an antihistamine and codeine. This combination produces a euphoric high and disassociation that can last for hours. The main addictive substance in purple drank is codeine, which is an opiate. It is possible to over-dose on codeine when using this combination, especially as this is usually combined with alcohol.
Side effects often include: constricted pupils that do not respond well to light, rough, raspy voice, slow, slurred speech, uncontrolled eye movement, droopy eyes, slowed heart rate, drowsiness, loss of balance, loss of coordination, paleness, constipation, urinary tract infection, dental problems, and of course, addiction.
This is a very popular trend that can be traced back to the 1960s, but has been made popular again by celebrities, specifically rappers, who are known users and even include references to the drug in their songs. There is an entire subculture surrounding purple drank that parents are often unaware of. Kids can purchase clothing, jewelry, posters, and all sorts of merchandise that promote this substance.
WARNING SIGNS OF OVER THE COUNTER DRUG ABUSE IN TEENS
A drop in grades
A change in mood or behavior
COMMON SIGNS OF OVER THE COUNTER DRUG WITHDRAWL
WHAT YOU CAN DO (PARENTS)
Talk to your child. Teens whose parents regularly talk to them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol are 40 percent less likely to use drugs. It may not seem like it, but they are listening.
Monitor your child. There is a strong, reliable link between parental monitoring (knowing who their child is with, where they are, and what they are doing) and decreased substance use in adolescents.
Lock up your medications. All medication, prescription and over the counter, should be kept in a locked container.
WHAT YOU CAN DO (TEENS)
Educate yourself. Know the dangers of over the counter drug abuse and then share that knowledge with friends and family.
Only take medication as directed by the instructions on the label and always with adult supervision.
Be an example. Many teens report using drugs because of peer pressure or boredom. Take the time to search out healthy drug free activities in your community and invite your friends along.
Decide ahead of time that you won’t partake. It is far easier to make an educated and rational decision ahead of time than it is to make one in a peer pressure situation.
Think ahead. Come up with a few ways to turn down drugs or alcohol in a peer pressure situation. Often a simple “no thanks” will be sufficient, but it never hurts to have a few nonchalant and/or humorous statements in mind before a party or other situation where you may be offered drugs. Here are a few favorites that teens have shared: “no, man, my parents would kill me,” “not my thing,” “no thanks, I’m driving,” “naaaah,” “I’m all good,” “money is my favorite drug.”
Over the Counter (OTC) Drug Addiction, Abuse and Treatment. (2018).
Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs. (2017).
Poland, S. (2011). Teenage Over-the-Counter Drug Abuse. District Administration, 47(2), 70.
OTC Abuse Statistics. (2016). https://www.teenhelp.com/teen-drug-abuse/otc-abuse-statistics/