Over the counter drugs (OTC) are among the fastest growing types of drugs abused by teenagers. Because they are easy to obtain, and it is easy to find information on getting high over the Internet, OTC drugs are popular among teens. Teens use OTC drugs to get high, and they feel a false sense of security because of the legality of OTC drugs. There are a number of OTC drugs that are abused by teens for various reasons. The most popular is cough medicine, but diet pills, OTC pain medications and sexual performance enhancers are also available and can be abused.
Cough medicine OTC abuse
Cough medicine contains an ingredient known as dextromethorphan (DXM). This drug can cause mind-altering affects that some teens enjoy. Using cough medicine can give teens a "buzz." Such feelings become addicting, and teens find themselves wanting regular "fixes" of cough medicine. It can be difficult to detect DXM abuse because most teens can purchase cough medicine on their own at the store fairly inexpensively. This means that the "regular" signs of drug abuse - spending a great deal of money, stealing to support the habit, drug paraphernalia and strange smells and hygiene problems - are not present with teen OTC abuse (1).
Diet pill OTC abuse
Diet pills, when overdosed on, can create a mild "buzz." However, teen diet pill abuse can also point to an eating disorder. Addiction to diet pills to help teens lose weight can be a sign of eating problems. Teens become addicted to diet pills to help them lose weight and keep the weight off. Often, this type of abuse is coupled with excessive exercising in an attempt to stay thin. Laxatives can also fall into this category. Some teens abuse laxatives and diuretics for the same purpose. These can dehydrate users and cause other health problems (2).
Teen abuse of OTC pain relievers often comes from ignorance. They take the drugs commonly at the first sign of headache, and may take more than recommended in order to help the drugs "work faster." Because they are legal and convenient, many teens do not think of the possible side effects. However, some OTC pain relievers are used for a buzz, especially the ones with caffeine (3).
Sexual performance pills
Pills to enhance sexual performance can also be found over the counter. While it might take a little more derring-do for teens to obtain these OTC drugs, they can still find them. Most commonly, they are ordered over the Internet. Many teens use them to increase sexual performance and pleasure. These pills are most commonly taken by teens with alcohol in order to help them perform sexually by counteracting the effects of alcohol on sexual performance. These pills can cause heart problems, and when combined with alcohol the health effects can be intensified (4).
Teen OTC abuse is a very real problem. Be on the look out for teen OTC use so that you can take proper steps to educate your teenager about the problems of OTC use.
Types of OTC Drugs Abused Sources:
- "Generation Rx: National Study Confirms Abuse of Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs," Partnership for a Drug-Free America. [Online.]
- "Dangerous Methods of Weight Control," Mirror-Mirror.org. [Online.]
- "New Survey Reveals Uninformed Consumers Taking Dangerous Risks with OTC Painkillers," NCLnet.org. [Online.]
- "Over-the-Counter Erectile Drugs Come With Health Risks," ABC News. [Online.]