July 07, 2008 —

As a mom, I know that talking with teens can be tough. I also know, however, that kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs at home are up to 50 percent less likely to abuse them.

That's why it's so important to have these talks. And the first step is to learn the facts ourselves. We need to be able to communicate the real dangers of drug abuse to our teens in an open and honest way.

And let's not fool ourselves. Each of our own teens is at risk of drug abuse, including cough medicine abuse. For example, did you know that one out of 10 teens (2.4 million) reports having abused cough medicine to get high? Some teens may take up to 25-50 times the recommended dose of cough medicine to achieve this high.

Contrary to what you might think, the high from over-the-counter cough medicine comes from taking an extreme amount of the active ingredient found in many of these medicines, dextromethorphan (DXM).

Dextromethorphan is an antitussive, or cough suppressant. When taken in the proper dosage, as outlined in the Drug Facts label on the package, it is a safe and effective remedy for coughs. When abused in excessive amounts, however, the results can be quite dangerous.

The effects of cough medicine abuse vary with the amount of medicine taken. Side effects can range from slurred speech, confusion, dizziness, and vomiting to loss of motor control, visual hallucinations, and "out-of-body" dissociative sensations. And the risks increase if the medicine is abused with alcohol or other medications.

Understanding what cough medicine abuse is and how it can hurt our kids are crucial to preventing it from happening in our homes. I highly recommend you check out the parents guide offered by CHPA and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Available in English and Spanish, it is a great resource that provides answers to many questions about cough medicine abuse. It also gives tips for preventing this and other types of drug abuse, and outlines some of the warning signs that a teen may be abusing drugs.

As parents, it's our job to protect our kids. But before we can help them, we need to know what can hurt them. Get the facts about cough medicine abuse. If you communicate the risks and dangers effectively with your kids, it may affect their decision on whether or not to abuse these medicines.