The Truth About Over The Counter Medication Abuse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has recently begun an educational campaign for young people, to teach them about the myths associated with many common prescription drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. The truth is most teens and young adults do not know as much as they think they do about the commonly used medications.

It’s hard to underestimate just how tempting medications are for young people to experiment with. They come from the store or the doctor, so they must be “safe.” Robittusin, Vicks, and NyQuil are a few of the more than 100 different OTC medications that contain the active ingredient dextromethorphan (DXM). This common ingredient, when taken in excessive amounts, can produce feelings of euphoria and out-of-body-like experiences. Past studies have found that 5% of all teens have gotten high using DMX, the abuse of which is called “robo-tripping.”

University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) is continuing efforts to research the consequences of the abuse of these potentially dangerous drugs.

Kenneth E. Leonard, RIA Director recently said,

“One of the myths many teens believe is that prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications don’t pose any real danger.”

Kids die every day from accidental overdoses or accidents caused by substance abuse and experimentation. Unfortunately, parents tend to try to protect their children by ignoring the possibility that their child might not know better. How have you educated your children about over-the-counter and prescription medication?

Looking at a slightly older demographic, Kathleen Parks, senior research scientist, is currently working on research of college student’s perception about using prescription drugs for non-medical use. Their understanding of the positive and negative consequences to using drugs is being studied.

“Our preliminary research has found that although students may be aware there are dangers associated with taking prescription drugs for recreational purposes, particularly when combined with alcohol, they think it’s a problem for other people, not for them”, she said.

The students interviewed believed it was acceptable to use certain prescription drugs to help with increased school workloads and to help deal with the pressures to succeed. They had limited knowledge that many drugs react with other things, even certain foods, medications, or over-the-counter medications like aspirin. These interactions can be dangerous, if not deadly. Also, according to Dr. Dan Siegel of UCLA, the human brain does not complete its development until the age of approximately 25. One of the areas of the brain that is not fully developed in young adults is the area that deals with understanding the consequences of our actions. Young people are not fully capable of grasping the dangers drug use can cause.

Providing information and warnings to children, teens and young adults through personal physicians, pharmacists, and educators is only the first step in getting this important information out. Parents are ultimately responsible for teaching their children about how to use over-the-counter and prescription medications thoughtfully and safely. The best solution to this problem is prevention.



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