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Help Parents

National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign Provides Information on Dangerous Drug Use Trend and Offers Resources to Help Parents Prevent Drug Misuse

The Problem

Misusing prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can be dangerous, even deadly. Nearly one-third of all drug abuse in the U.S. involves non-medical misuse of prescription drugs. More worrisome, 13.4 percent of youth between the ages of 12 and 17 have misused prescription drugs at least once. (2003 NSDUH, Table 1.2B).

Teens have found that some prescription drugs and common cold medicines (with dextromethorphan as a main ingredient) provide a "high" similar to illegal drugs. This is sometimes referred to as "pharming" or "robotripping."

Why Teens Misuse Drugs

Teens point to personal or family-related stress as a major reason why they misuse prescription drugs. Sources of stressful feelings include:

  • Anxiety about friendships, romantic relationships and family life;
  • Angst about academic success, high school tests or college entrance exams; and
  • Difficulty balancing homework, after-school jobs and extracurricular activities

What Happens

The consequences for prescription drug misuse include respiratory distress, cardiac stress and seizures (all of which can lead to death), tolerance (meaning that you have to take more of the drug to achieve the desired effect), dependence and serious withdrawal symptoms. Among teens, pain medication is the most abused prescription medication. Dextromethorphan (DXM) can cause nausea, vomiting, seizures, hallucinations and even death.

And teens are finding these drugs easy to come by, taking pills from the family medicine cabinet or their grandparents' homes and distributing them at school. Parents are urged to learn the signs associated with prescription and OTC drug misuse and talk to their teens about the dangers of using them.

Resources for Help