OTC Drug Abuse: Common and Dangerous for Adolescents and Teens

Like many important life issues, one topic parents need to address with their children is over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Too many adolescents and teens find out the hard way that while these drugs don’t require a doctor’s prescription, they can pose serious health threats when taken inappropriately. One in 10 kids say they have abused OTC drugs, which means there are probably many more taking risks they shouldn’t. A University of Cincinnati study shows that cough syrup and decongestants are the most popular OTC choices for children ages 13-18. By talking to their children about the risks of OTC drugs, parents can cut the chances of them experimenting with and abusing them by 50 percent, according to the study. Talking doesn’t mean lecturing, warns one parent of a child that fell into the OTC drug abuse cycle. A two-way conversation is the preferred method of conveying what determines healthy decisions and it is never too late to begin the dialogue.  Parents also need to encourage their children that it is OK to say no to OTC drug experimentation and use when pressured by their peers. While cough syrup and decongestants top the list, it’s not just OTC drugs that are putting youths at risk – caffeine from carbonated beverages can also be a danger, including energy drinks. Diet pills, laxatives, motion sickness pills, pain relievers and pseudoephedrine pose dangerous risks for youth when abused.  Internet-available drugs such as sexual performance pills and a variety of herbal medicines are also chart-toppers for youths looking for an altered state. When abused, these drugs can lead to heart defects, heart failure, neurological issues, seizures and a lengthy list of other maladies that no parent wants their child to experience. If your teen is facing OTC drug abuse, help him or her secure treatment as soon as possible.

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