The Five Moms

We are five moms from different backgrounds who have come together with a common concern: teenagers abusing OTC cough medicine to get high.

Parents, we have the power to make a difference!

August 19, 2014 —

As our teens get ready to head back to school, it’s important that we, as parents, prepare for what can happen when our teens are suddenly stressed out from schoolwork and overwhelmed by peer pressure. In order to find temporary relief from these stressors, our teens might consider experimenting in dangerous activities, such as drugs, alcohol and/or over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine abuse. Teens are particularly drawn to abusing OTC cough medicine because it is affordable, easily available and considered to be less dangerous than illicit drugs.

While it is important to appropriately monitor and safeguard every type of medicine in your medicine cabinet, it is especially crucial to keep an eye out for OTC cough medicines containing dextromethorphan (DXM) as these medicines are used by one in 25 teens to get “high.” DXM is the active ingredient in cough medicine, which can currently be found in more than 100 medicines on the market. Becoming aware of which OTC medicines in your home contain DXM is the first step in preventing teen cough medicine abuse. Taking the time to safeguard these medicines is the second step.

Here are three things you can do to identify and effectively safeguard OTC medicines that contain DXM:

  1. Read the Label. Medicines that contain DXM come in various forms such as liquids, capsules, gelcaps, lozenges and tablets. If a medicine contains DXM, it will be listed on the label. Read the Drug Facts label to find out if dextromethorphan is listed under the “Active Ingredients” section. Also, be sure to look for the “Stop Medicine Abuse” icon on medicine boxes and bottles as our icon serves as a DXM indicator in addition to your medicine’s label.
  2. Take inventory. In order to effectively safeguard your OTC medicines, you need to know what exactly is in your medicine cabinet. Take note of what you have and how much you have, so you will immediately know if any medicine goes missing. Make a habit of updating your medicine inventory periodically.
  3. Store safely. Be sure to secure and safely store medicines that contain DXM in a place that only you can readily access. This will make monitoring your medicines much easier and your teen will have to come to you to obtain certain medications. 

Roughly one out of three teenagers knows someone who has abused OTC cough medicine to get “high,” but by effectively safeguarding these medicines in your home, especially those containing DXM, you can significantly decrease your teen’s likelihood of abuse. For a list of popular brand-name OTC cough medicines that contain dextromethorphan, click here. Do you have any other ideas about how to safeguard your medicines? Please feel free to share them in the comments below!