June 30, 2014 —

Over-the-counter (OTC) drug abuse among teenagers is a growing problem. While OTC drugs are safe when they are used for legitimate medical issues, teenagers are misusing these medications for purposes other than how they are supposed to be used, like getting high. Often times, these drugs are easily accessible because most people keep a wide assortment of OTC medicines in their home. Parents, you should immediately take inventory of your medications and keep them in a safe place whenever possible so that your teenagers can’t steal them from you or other family members.

Teens are lured into a false sense of security and assume that taking OTC medicines are safer than taking illegal drugs. What they don’t realize is that abusing these medicines can be just as dangerous. Parents, it is so important that you openly communicate with your teens and let them know how dangerous it is to take medications in excess and use them for reasons beyond medical necessity. Here are three consequences of OTC medicine abuse that you should discuss with your teen:

Driving While Under the Influence

If your children are old enough to get behind the wheel, you need to talk to them about the ramifications that they can face if they are pulled over while under the influence, whether they have been drinking alcohol or taking medications that impair their judgment. Most teens think that they can only be charged with DUI (driving under the influence) if they were drinking alcohol; this, however, is not true: If a cop thinks that your teen is impaired, they can give him or her a field sobriety test. All it takes is a failed sobriety test and your teen can be convicted of DUI, even if he or she hasn’t had an ounce of alcohol in his or her system.

Drug Interactions

Teenagers don’t realize that they are putting their own health in jeopardy when they abuse OTC medicines. Depending on the other medications that your teen may be taking, consuming excessive quantities of OTC medicines could cause dangerous and unknown side effects when mixed with other substances.

A Larger Problem

Medications were designed to help people with their medical issues; however, abusing medicines, such as cough medicine, could actually be a sign of a bigger problem. Parents, if your teenager is acting differently, it could be a sign that they have a problem and they are trying to cover it up by taking excessive doses of over-the-counter medications. The best thing that you can do is monitor their behaviors, grades in school and who they are hanging out with. If you think your teen may have a problem, Time to Act offers resources to start the conversation and get your teen back on the right track.

Christy Garrett is married to her best friend and has three children.  She enjoys spending time helping others, learning about social media and spending time with her kids.  When she isn’t busy with the kids, she enjoys writing and sharing her experiences with others, especially parents. You can find her on Google+.