Over the Counter Medicine Abuse Increasing Among Teen Males
The dangers of the home medicine cabinet were a topic of discussion at San Francisco’s recent 140th annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, the oldest organization of public health professionals worldwide. Health officials are noticing a growing trend of adolescents getting their drugs legally, free, and easily right from inside their own home.
This most recent research conducted by the University of Cincinnati reveals that while both males and females are abusing over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, males are especially vulnerable to long-term abuse of these medicines.
Pride Survey on Adolescent Drug Use
A national survey, called the Pride Survey, assesses the use of drugs, violence, and other behaviors in adolescents. During the 2009-2010 survey, the Coalition for a Drug Free Greater Cincinnati collected data on more than 54,000 students. These students were primarily 7th through 12th graders from 133 schools throughout the Cincinnati area.
Researchers Rebecca Vidourek, Ph.D. and Keith King, Ph.D. reported that 10 percent of the students had abused common OTC medicines like cough syrup and decongestants. Dextromethorphan (DXM) is the main ingredient in cough and cold medicines that can be dangerous if abused. Adolescents who have abused OTC cough and cold medications have been admitted to emergency rooms complaining of symptoms including seizures, severe nausea, and symptoms from poisoning. Prolonged overuse of these OTC medicines can even induce physical and psychological addictions to the drugs.
Those at Risk of Abusing OTC Drugs
Some adolescents see legal drugs as safer than illegal drugs like marijuana or cocaine. But OTC drugs can have harmful physical and addictive affects, too, if they are used improperly. Just because it is considered a “medicine” does not mean that it cannot harm. The invincible image that adolescents often have of themselves can make it easier to abuse these OTC medicines.
In the Cincinnati study, researchers noticed that male adolescents had a greater risk of OTC abuse than females. This was the most significant finding in the study. They also found links to what keeps adolescents safer from the abuse of these drugs.
Those students with higher risk of OTC abuse include:
- Male adolescents
- Male and female junior high school students
- Those who attend parties where there were drugs
- Those who have friends who use OTC drugs
Those students with less risk of OTC abuse are often involved with:
- Church activities
- Community service and projects.
Awareness Programs Reach Out to Educate Youth
Local health professionals are reaching out to help educate adolescents on the dangers of abusing OTC medicines. Parents once thought that keeping their child off the streets would help shelter them from drug abuse. Today, parents need to be aware of the common cold medicines that sit innocently on kitchen countertops.
Awareness groups help to educate both parents and youth on the positive and negative powers of OTC medicine and ways to avoid its abuse.