While millions of Americans safely rely on over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine to temporarily relieve cough symptoms, approximately 1 in 32 teens reports abusing it to get high.


Many parents are aware of the dangers of illicit drugs, but prescription and (OTC) medicines are sometimes overlooked as a source of substance abuse.

According to The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids:

  • Roughly 1 in 4 teenagers knows someone who has abused OTC cough medicine to get high.
  • 75% of teens believe that abusing OTC cough medicine to get high is risky. That means that 25% don’t think it’s risky.
  • Approximately 1 in 32 teens reports abusing OTC cough medicine to get high.


Myths about this type of substance abuse and a lack of awareness among parents are barriers to preventing it.

Data collected in 2023 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse for its Monitoring the Future study estimates the intentional abuse of OTC cough medicine among 8th, 10th and 12th graders is at 4%, 3% and 2.4%, respectively.