New Teen Drug Abuse Trends Indicate To Check Your Medicine Cabinet

teen reaching for drugs in medicine cabinet

Adolescents no longer have to turn to school dealers for drugs–they can find their high right in their own home. More and more kids are turning to the medicine cabinet for drug abuse, to their parents’ dismay.

A recent study from the University of Cincinnati examined over-the-counter drug abuse among teens and found that boys have a higher likelihood of using them. 54,000 high-schoolers were studied and ten percent reported OTC drug abuse.

Unexpected Abuse

OTC drugs are not the only things parents should be concerned about. Virtually any medication can be abused by teens.

Cough and cold medicine such as Robitussin, NyQuil, Dimetapp, and Vicks contain a chemical substance called Dextromethorphan (also known as DXM). DXM is a cough suppressant and painkiller. In larger doses, it acts as a hallucinogen and produces a stimulant-type euphoria. OTC abuse can lead to accidental poisoning, seizures, and addiction.

Prescription opioids such as Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Percocet are extremely addictive. Someone may be prescribed one of these potent painkillers for an injury or dental work, but within days they may find themselves so dependent that they feel ill if they stop use. Only continuing to use the drugs will make the user feel better. Not only does opioid addiction happen inadvertently, it is promoted among high schoolers on campus and over the Internet. All teens have to do is search for it on Youtube or Google and they will find instructions in all ways varied and sundry that these drugs can be abused.

Stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin, typically prescribed for ADHD, are often promoted among teens for their speed-like effects. They stimulate the central nervous system and can cause hallucinations and disorientation. Chances of overdose are high, and it can cause heart failure, blood clots, and a personality change. Suicide and psychosis can result. Many teens fake ADHD symptoms in order to get prescriptions, and in addition to abusing them, they often sell their meds for a large profit (sometimes as much as eight hundred percent). In 2006, approximately 7 million Americans reported prescription stimulant abuse.

The Facts About Prescriptions and OTC Medication

This is the first time that a drug epidemic is not being pushed by drug cartels overseas. Prescription drug abuse is at unprecedented levels and it often starts in the home or is given to someone by a friend.

Every day, averages of 2,500 American youth get high on prescription painkillers for the first time.

The number of people who have died from prescription drugs now exceeds that of gunshot wounds. In many states, they are the leading cause of accidental death–surpassing automobile accidents.

Prescription drug abuse becomes more predominant in older teens, with a greater percentage of high school seniors hooked on painkillers than freshmen. The problem continues into college and often into adulthood. Drug addiction frequently follows people throughout their lives.

Prevention Tips

With home medicine cabinet abuse there are ways to handle the issue and even prevent it. They include:

1. Lock up your medicine cabinet.

2. Take all unused prescriptions to local drop off stations operated by law enforcement.

3. If you have a legal prescription follow the directions on the bottle; only taking the needed amount and discontinuing use when the illness or injury is resolved.

4. Get immediate help if you think you have a problem.

5. If you know a loved one who is using find them a rehab program and help them to enroll in treatment.


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.