Monitoring the Future 2018: Teen OTC Cough Medicine Abuse Remains Low

Every month, we keep you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at the 2018 results from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and University of Michigan’s annual drug abuse survey, Monitoring the Future.

The 2018 results from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and University of Michigan’s annual drug abuse survey, Monitoring the Future, were released earlier this week showing that the percentage of teens using over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to get high remains at 3 percent. When first reported in 2006, the number of teens abusing OTC cough medicines was nearly twice that amount but has declined significantly since then.

It’s likely that this decrease is in part because more parents are aware of the issue and understand how to prevent and detect medicine abuse in their homes and communities. Additionally, many of the 100+ plus brands that contain DXM voluntarily placed our “PARENTS: Learn About Teen Medicine Abuse” icon on their product packaging ten years ago. This icon aims to inform parents of the issue and let them know which medicines they should keep a closer eye on in their medicine cabinets.

“It’s our belief that the icon, along with public education and state age restriction laws, have made an enormous impact on abuse rates over the years, while ensuring continued access for millions of families who responsibly use medicines containing DXM.”

                                                                – CHPA president and CEO Scott Melville

But we aren’t finished yet.

Even one teen abusing OTC cough medicine is one too many. It’s important for parents, teachers, and community members to continue in the fight to prevent abuse by raising awareness of the issue and sharing ways to stop it. Here’s what you can do to help us continue to reduce the rate of OTC cough medicine abuse:

  • Talk to the teens in your life about the risks of substance abuse. Tell them the dangerous side effects and warn them that risky behaviors can impact their futures. Studies have shown that teens who have the drug talk with a parent or guardian are 50% less likely to abuse.
  • Monitor both your teen and your home for warning signs of abuse. Look out for red flags such as empty cough medicine bottles in the trash when no one is sick, drastic changes in behavior, or use of any of these slang terms. It’s difficult to imagine medicine abuse happening in our own families, but it’s also important to know how to detect potential signs of it. * If you suspect your child is misusing or abusing medicine, you can connect with a Helpline Specialist from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids by phone at 855-DRUGFREE (855-378-4373), by text, email, or Facebook Messenger. *
  • Share what you’ve learned with parents, teachers, and community members. The more people who know how to sniff out medicine abuse, the more we can prevent and stop it. You can find resources for spreading the word here.

Along with following our blog, you can stay updated on new studies and trends in teen behavior, advice for keeping teens away from risky behaviors, general teen parenting tips, and more by keeping up with the Stop Medicine Abuse initiative on Facebook and Twitter.


Take Action

Increased awareness can only mean increased prevention. Join us in the fight against teen cough medicine abuse by exploring and sharing our free resources.