August 25, 2008 —

I have been a part of the Five Moms campaign for over a year now, and even though together we've helped reach millions of parents, I still can't get over how many people just don't know that cough medicine abuse may be happening in their community.

The reality is that cough medicine abuse occurs in many communities throughout the United States. You don't need to look any further than your local news to see this. It seems that cough medicine abuse is impacting communities across the country. Recently, I came across this story [Link no longer available] from a Seattle newspaper. The piece discussed a local town hall meeting about the rise of prescription drug and over-the-counter cough medicine abuse among teens. The article explained that:

"Those abusing cough medications often consume 25 to 50 times the recommended dosage to get high

Still, because the physical effects of cough medication are not as severe as other drugs, some parents are less concerned. But Caleb Banta-Green, PhD, of the University of Washington's Drug and Alcohol Institute, urges parents to take it seriously."

In addition, teens are able to find information on how to abuse over-the-counter medications, such as cough medicine, on the Internet. An article from a Massachusetts newspaper explained:
"According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, half the number of dextromethorphan related emergency room visits are people ages 12-20. Young people learn on the Internet that taking large doses of dextromethorphan will give them a safe, legal high. Teens are misinformed. They believe if one can buy it in a local store or find it at home in the medicine cabinet, then it must be safe."
It is true that over-counter medications are safe when used appropriately (and help us and our kids get relief from nagging coughs). But teen abuse of cough medicine is a practice that can be dangerous—and one that can be stopped.

It is important to educate yourself about cough medicine abuse and talk with your kids about the dangers of taking excessive doses of cough medicine to get high. Share the information with your friends and find out about what initiatives are in place in your community to protect people from over-the-counter medicine abuse. If none are planned, why not plan one yourself? There are materials to help. The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America and CHPA (CHPA is a supporter of the Five Moms Campaign) have the Dose of Prevention Campaign to help communities develop town hall meetings on the subject.