Talking to Kids About Medicine Abuse

by Melanie Edwards on September 30, 2013

in Parenting

Cough Medicine Abuse

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Though cough medicine abuse is more common among teenagers, I’ve already begun talking to my oldest about the need to be careful when taking medicines. Even at 7 years old, she can understand that too much of anything can turn into a bad thing. Building upon that concept, we’ve had talks about how medicines can help us feel better when we truly need them, but that taking them when not necessary or taking too much of a medicine and not following the dosage instructions can be bad for our bodies. I’d like to think that hearing this information early-on will be beneficial as she grows older and will help her make smart decisions regarding the use and abuse of medicine.

Since October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association wants parents to learn more about its Stop Medicine Abuse prevention campaign with the goal of alerting parents to the dangers of over-the-counter cough medicine abuse among teens. Medicine abuse is not something I was knowledgeable about as a teenager – no one in my circle of friends ever abused medicines – but, about 1 in 20 teens do abuse DXM to get high. (DXM or Dextromethorphan is found in common cough medicines and can cause mild distortions of color and sound, hallucinations, and loss of motor control when abused.)

It is too early to talk to my children (7 and 2) in full detail about cough medicine abuse (or any other over-the-counter medicine abuse) with specific information on side effects, etc., but it’s not too early to let them know that medicines are only to be taken when needed. In fact, data shows that teens who learn about the risk of drugs from their parents are 50% less likely to use drugs. I’m hopeful that by starting the conversations early with my children, they’ll be well-prepared by the time they are teenagers.

If you’re the parent of a teenager, here are some tips for preventing cough medicine abuse in your home:

  • Talk with your teen about cough medicine abuse and monitor your medicine cabinets.
  • Listen to language used: DXM is often referred to as skittling, tussin, robo-tripping, CCC, triple Cs, and dexing.
  • Be aware of the warning signs identified by Stop Medicine Abuse
    • Empty cough medicine bottles/boxes in the trash of your child’s room, backpack, or school locker
    • Loss of interest in hobbies or favorite activities
    • Changes in friends, physical appearance, sleeping, or eating patterns
    • Declining grades

The  infographic below also provides good information on cough medicine abuse in teenagers – share it with your friends so they too know what to look for! (Click on infographic image to view full size.)

Cough Medicine Abuse: 3 Things Parents Can Do

Cough Medicine Abuse: Tips for Parents to Talk to Kids and Prevent Medicine Abuse

For more information on cough medicine abuse, ideas for talking with your children, and useful resources, check out and follow @StopMedAbuse on Twitter, plus the #NotMyTeen hashtag. You can also join the conversation via a Twitter Party co-hosted by @OTCSafety and Mom It Forward tomorrow, Tuesday, October 1 from 9-10 pm EST. (Use the hashtags #gno and #NotMyTeen!)

How do you think you’ll talk to your kids about cough medicine abuse and other over-the-counter medicine abuse?

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Photo: Karrie Nodalo/Flickr

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